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Butler (law, George Washington Univ.), a former federal prosecutor, makes a clear case for what ails our criminal justice system. The statistics alone are staggering: the United States comprises 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's prison population; approximately half the U.S. prison population is made up of African Americans, with more young black men in prison than in college. Since the War on Drugs began over 30 years ago, the U.S. prison population has exploded, owing partly to harsh sentences for minor drug charges. Ironically, the overall crime rate is lowered (for a number of reasons) if we house fewer prisoners, and Butler suggests ways citizens can help in this regard, from jury nullification (i.e., acquitting a defendant in the face of the government's case) to campaigning for the end of racial profiling. He also describes hip-hop's role in chronicling what is wrong with our system. While some of his suggestions will certainly prove controversial, we can hope that this timely book leads to more dialog and to change. Required reading for all concerned about their neighborhoods and our criminal justice system.
—Karen Sandlin Silverman