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Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in…
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Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

by James Forman Jr.

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Showing 4 of 4
Locking Up Our Own by James Forman Jr. After reading this book and Evicted last year, I'm determined to read more Pulitzer winning non-fiction. This book looks at how our high levels of incarceration got to where they are, specifically in the African American community and how 3-4 decades ago African Americans were often the loudest voice regarding tough on crime and minimum sentences. Forman's main thread through the book is how the complex long-term solutions got left behind (better schools, fighting systemic racism, job training etc) while fighting drugs and violent crime got all the resources both on the local level and national. He puts the decisions in the 70s-90s in historical perspective and shows how the shift has happened over time when communities realized the unforeseen repercussions of their policies. ( )
  strandbooks | May 31, 2018 |
Nuanced and complex take on the intersection of race and crime and law in twentieth-century America. Thought-provoking and challenging no matter where you are on the political spectrum. This should be a must-read for everyone. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Been waiting for this book for like forever at the library but finally gave in and bought it when I found it on Book Outlet. Foreman takes a slightly different tack than what is seen in the media and points to how many black leaders, politicians, etc. contributed to issues like mass incarceration and the war on drugs to disproportionately affect people of color. Although we can now shake our heads at the consequences (however unintended), Foreman traces how elected officials and others used the tools they had on hand in order to counteract the damage being done to their own communities and neighborhoods.

He looks at specific topics including the war on drugs, the rise of representation of black police people in the force, the proliferation of guns and then the consequences as communities (although it's focused on Washington, DC) grappled with how to handle with the rise in crime and how to cope. It really made for really interesting to see how these events, placed in the context of their time, eventually led us to where we are. There have been arguments as to how racism, the state, etc. put us on this path (and Foreman does not dismiss their roles) so it was fascinating to see the mechanisms and the aftermath, as dreadful as it has been.

However, reviews that dock the writing style are on point. It's clear Foreman did a lot of research and draws from his experiences but the writing was pretty awful. The personal anecdotes and the stories of the individuals who have been caught in the system are moving and helps bring his points home but it did feel quite "lawer-y" to someone who's spent the last year looking at various filings and writings written in more "formal" formats that required the "legalese".

Initially I would have recommended this as a companion to 'The New Jim Crow' and I do think it's still a helpful read. But I'd set aside some time for this one to work through it and/or go into it understanding it's not a book that flows as well as a narrative. Recommend library or as a bargain book to work through it as slowly/carefully as you like. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 20, 2018 |
Focusing on DC, where Forman lived and worked for a number of years, Forman tells a story that applies in many places in the US: the reasons that African-Americans supported, at least initially, harsh-on-crime policies that produced the New Jim Crow, exploding prison populations and ensuring that huge numbers of young African-Americans were involuntarily involved in the criminal justice system. Forman argues: (1) The pioneers who joined and rose in the police were often looking for good jobs, not to transform policing; you wouldn’t expect a rise in black firefighters to change the way fires were fought. (2) Class divisions in the African-American community made it easier for upper- and middle-class blacks to endorse policies that kept poor blacks overpoliced; it’s no accident that the policies they fought the hardest were the ones, like racially motivated traffic stops, that they were likely to experience, while policies that targeted poor neighborhoods got more of a pass. (3) Poor African-Americans were often underpoliced as well; there were huge crime and drug problems in poor communities, and while African-Americans asked for all kinds of resources—including education and economic development along with improved police presence—to fight them, all they got was the police presence. Then policies directed at those neighborhoods, often initially to combat violence, ended up criminalizing a lot of behavior that whites just wouldn’t be caught for, like possession of small amounts of pot. It’s a thought-provoking read. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Jun 15, 2017 |
Showing 4 of 4
It is difficult to criticise a bible, particularly one written with as much insight, rhetorical power and moral authority as The New Jim Crow. When James Forman, a law professor at Yale and the son of a prominent civil rights activist, first presented his criticisms of Alexander’s argument, colleagues nervously asked him why he was ‘critiquing a point of view that is so aligned with your own’. He agreed with Alexander that mass incarceration had turned convicted criminals into members of a stigmatised caste, condemned to second-class citizenship. He also agreed that one of the most destructive effects of mass incarceration was to lead the wider society to see poor black men as potential threats, social outcasts whose rights could be violated with impunity. But he believed that Alexander’s thesis obscured ‘some important truths’. [...] Locking Up Our Own is a sobering chronicle of how black people, in the hope of saving their communities, contributed to the rise of a system that has undone much of the progress of the civil rights era. But, as Forman knows, they could not have built it by themselves, and they are even less likely to be able to abolish it without influential white allies, and dramatic reforms in the structure of American society.
 
In the conservative backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement, deflection to “black on black” crime has become a meme. Why, op-eds and pundits sputter, does the black community get so riled about police violence and yet remain silent about the gun and drug crime that savages so many of its own?

James Forman Jr, son of civil rights leader James Forman Sr, knew from his time as a public defender in Washington DC that such broadsides are patently wrong. In his new book, Locking Up Our Own, he goes beyond the broader argument – that it’s reasonable to expect more from sworn law enforcement than from street criminals – to make clear that the charge is simply wrong on face value too.

“I think of it as a 239-page rebuttal to the claim that black people and their elected leaders only care about crime when it’s [committed by] the police,” Forman told the Guardian. “If there’s one thing that I hope the book does, it’s demolish that lie.”
 
James Forman Jr. divides his superb and shattering first book, “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” into two parts: “Origins” and “Consequences.” But the temptation is to scribble in, before “Consequences,” a modifier: “Unforeseen.” That is truly what this book is about, and what makes it tragic to the bone: How people, acting with the finest of intentions and the largest of hearts, could create a problem even more grievous than the one they were trying to solve.
 
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To Ify and Emeka,
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All of us in the public defender's office feared the Martin Luther King speech.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374189978, Hardcover)

An original and consequential argument about race, crime, and the law

Today, Americans are debating our criminal justice system with new urgency. Mass incarceration and aggressive police tactics―and their impact on people of color―are feeding outrage and a consensus that something must be done.

But what if we only know half the story? In Locking Up Our Own, the Yale legal scholar and former public defender James Forman Jr. weighs the tragic role that some African Americans themselves played in escalating the war on crime. As Forman shows, the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office around the country amid a surge in crime. Many came to believe that tough measures―such as stringent drug and gun laws and “pretext traffic stops” in poor African American neighborhoods―were needed to secure a stable future for black communities. Some politicians and activists saw criminals as a “cancer” that had to be cut away from the rest of black America. Others supported harsh measures more reluctantly, believing they had no other choice in the face of a public safety emergency.

Drawing on his experience as a public defender and focusing on Washington, D.C., Forman writes with compassion for individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas―from the young men and women he defended to officials struggling to cope with an impossible situation. The result is an original view of our justice system as well as a moving portrait of the human beings caught in its coils.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 03 Nov 2016 13:47:28 -0400)

"An original and consequential argument about race, crime, and the law today, Americans are debating our criminal justice system with new urgency. Mass incarceration and aggressive police tactics--and their impact on people of color--are feeding outrage and a consensus that something must be done. But what if we only know half the story? In Locking Up Our Own, the Yale legal scholar and former public defender James Forman Jr. weighs the tragic role that some African Americans themselves played in escalating the war on crime. As Forman shows, the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office around the country amid a surge in crime. Many came to believe that tough measures--such as stringent drug and gun laws and "pretext traffic stops" in poor African American neighborhoods--were needed to secure a stable future for black communities. Some politicians and activists saw criminals as a "cancer" that had to be cut away from the rest of black America. Others supported harsh measures more reluctantly, believing they had no other choice in the face of a public safety emergency. Drawing on his experience as a public defender and focusing on Washington, D.C., Forman writes with compassion for individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas--from the young men and women he defended to officials struggling to cope with an impossible situation. The result is an original view of our justice system as well as a moving portrait of the human beings caught in its coils."-- "Recounts the tragic role that some African Americans--as judges, prosecutors, politicians, police officers, and voters--played in escalating the war on crime"--… (more)

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