Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

by James Forman Jr.
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

by James Forman Jr.


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Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction
Long-listed for the National Book Award
Finalist, Current Interest Category, Los Angeles Times Book Prizes
One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2017

Short-listed for the Inaugural Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

Former public defender James Forman, Jr. is a leading critic of mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color. In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand the war on crime that began in the 1970s and why it was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374189976
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 04/18/2017
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 878,032
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

James Forman Jr. is a professor of law at Yale Law School. He has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, numerous law reviews, and other publications. A former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, he spent six years as a public defender in Washington, D.C., where he cofounded the Maya Angelou Public Charter School.

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Part I Origins

1 Gateway to the War on Drugs: Marijuana, 1975 17

2 Black Lives Matter: Gun Control, 1975 47

3 Representatives of Their Race: The Rise of African American Police, 1948-78 78

Part II Consequences

4 "Locking Up Thugs Is Not Vindictive": Sentencing, 1983-82 119

5 "The Worst Thing to Hit Us Since Slavery': Crack and the Advent of Warrior Policing, 1988-92 151

6 What Would Martin Luther King, Jr., Say?: Stop and Search, 1995 185

Epilogue: The Reach of Our Mercy, 2014-16 217

Notes 241

Acknowledgments 287

Index 291

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