Cover of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America
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Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

By: James Forman

Publisher: Macmillan Trade

Imprint: FSG

Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780374537449

Other Formats:

Electronic | Hardcover

On Sale: | Pages: 320

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In recent years, America s criminal justice system has become the subject of an increasingly urgent debate. Critics have assailed the rise of mass incarceration, emphasizing its disproportionate impact on people of color. As James Forman, Jr., points out, however, the war on crime that began in the 1970s was supported by many African American leaders in the nation s urban centers. In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand why. Forman shows us that the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office amid a surge in crime and drug addiction. Many prominent black officials, including Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry and federal prosecutor Eric Holder, feared that the gains of the civil rights movement were being undermined by lawlessness and thus embraced tough-on-crime measures, including longer sentences and aggressive police tactics. In the face of skyrocketing murder rates and the proliferation of open-air drug markets, they believed they had no choice. But the policies they adopted would have devastating consequences for residents of poor black neighborhoods.A former D.C. public defender, Forman tells riveting stories of politicians, community activists, police officers, defendants, and crime victims. He writes with compassion about individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas from the men and women he represented in court to officials struggling to respond to a public safety emergency. Locking Up Our Own enriches our understanding of why our society became so punitive and offers important lessons to anyone concerned about the future of race and the criminal justice system in this country."
Forman deftly moves between such examples of black community support for a law-and-order crackdown and the dire present-day consequences of our increasingly punitive and aggressive war on crime.... Caught up in a merciless criminal justice system that refuses to distinguish between hardened criminals and recreational drug users or between youthful indiscretions and remorseless predation, these men and women suffered life-altering punishments for offenses that are often overlooked or forgiven in wealthier communities.
—San Francisco Chronicle
Forman, a Yale Law School professor and former Washington, D.C., public defender, has written a masterly account of how a generation of black elected officials wrestled with recurring crises of violence and drug use in the nation's capital.... Forman's novel claim is this: What most explains the punitive turn in black America is not a repudiation of civil rights activism, as some have argued, but an embrace of it.
—New York Times
Part of the power of “Locking Up Our Own” is that it's about Washington — not the swamp of deceit merchants and influence-peddlers that Donald J. Trump promised to drain, but a majority-black city that hundreds of thousands call home, regardless of whose bum is in the Oval Office.... “Locking Up Our Own” is also very poignantly a book of the Obama era, when black authors like Alexander and Bryan Stevenson and Ta-Nehisi Coates initiated difficult conversations about racial justice and inequality, believing that their arguments might, for once, gain more meaningful traction.
—New York Times
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