As in his first book, The Rights of the People, Shipler…combines a journalist's eye for detail with a sense of moral indignation about what he argues are the many ways the U.S. legal system has curtailed the rights of the accused, many of them poor and powerless minorities…There are, of course, many books about the stories behind Supreme Court cases. Shipler's distinctive contribution is the thoroughness and originality of his reporting: By interviewing the protagonists in landmark cases, he uncovers some surprising and relevant facts.
In this fascinating and provocative account, scholar and former New York Times reporter Shipler (The Working Poor) investigates the current state of the average American’s rights, and probes the more extreme boundaries where constitutional freedoms often slip. We meet an American terror suspect abused and held indefinitely without access to attorneys, three Rwandan prisoners who falsely confess to FBI agents to avoid further torture by interrogators in their own country, a 17-year-old Long Island boy who does the same after a cop lies to him about his father’s last words, and legal immigrants forced out of the country over petty infractions for which they’d years ago paid the fines and done the time. We watch as prosecutors, according to the author, armed with unfair sentencing guidelines, stack the deck against those who maintain their innocence rather than plea bargain, or who can’t afford adequate legal counsel in an overtaxed public defense system. Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens find their rights to free speech and privacy eroded as biased restrictions curtail political demonstrations and keep students from voicing dissent, and as post–September 11 fears usher in a new era of warrantless wiretapping and government surveillance. This book is a must for readers who want to stay informed of their rights in the shadowy territory where the government’s need for order and security overstep constitutional protections. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Mar.)
“Fascinating. . . . Monumental. . . . Shipler is particularly good at weaving together legal history and personal storytelling.” —Richard McGill Murphy, Fortune
“Shipler doesn’t mince words or shy away from the hard issues. . . . The writing is precise, interesting, and frequently moving. . . . His coverage, concreteness, and willingness to candidly take on the range of issues make this a terrific book for anyone interested in our rights and liberties.” —David Kairys, Philadelphia Inquirer
“There are many books about the stories behind Supreme Court cases. Shipler’s distinctive contribution is the thoroughness and originality of his reporting.” —Jeffrey Rosen, The Washington Post
“Fascinating and provocative. . . . This book is a must for readers who want to stay informed of their rights in the shadowy territory where the government’s need for order and security overstep constitutional protections.” — Publishers Weekly, Starred review
“Well-reported. . . . No matter the issue, Shipler humanizes the discussion throughout, linking each topic to stories of real people silenced, marginalized, neglected, bullied, even brutalized by a government that should know better.” —Kirkus
“An eye-opening and troubling look at failures in the criminal justice system that put at risk the rights of all citizens.” —Booklist
“David Shipler's important new book powerfully reminds us that our constitutional rights are little more than words on paper if we fail to take them seriously when it's inconvenient or even painful to do so.” —Linda Greenhouse, author of Becoming Justice Blackmun
“David Shipler’s Rights at Risk is simply a wonderful book. It lays out, more powerfully than anything else I have read, how our constitutional rights have been whittled away in recent years—by presidents and judges and police chiefs. All in the name of national security or safe streets. More than a cry in the night, it is a careful, intensely researched account of a dangerous trend that not enough of us have noticed. Not just law, it is human drama.” —Anthony Lewis, author of Gideon’s Trumpet
“In Rights at Risk, Shipler continues his project of showing us how the constitutional rights we exalt in theory are being undermined in practice. This masterful and illuminating book reports how our criminal justice system frequently omits the justice, and how we are not as free to speak out to and against the government as we might like to think. The Constitution needs our help to survive, and reading this book is a valuable first step to reclaiming our fundamental values of fairness and equality for ourselves and for future generations.” —Susan Herman, President of American Civil Liberties Union and author of Taking Liberties
“Shipler argues that although a basic knowledge of the Bill of Rights by all citizens is not possible to achieve, we need to maintain a robust ‘Constitutional culture.’ By reading this book and discussing it with others, you will be doing your part.” —Portland Book Review
Following hard on the heels of Shipler's The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties, out in trade paperback in February 2012, this book expands on Shipler's argument that our civil liberties are under attack. Shipler's examples include an Iraqi refugee arrested on transparently false charges and an impoverished woman sentenced to life in prison owing to her lawyer's conflict of interest. Sobering reading for the serious-minded.
A Pulitzer Prize winner resumes his well-reported account of the assault on our constitutional rights in a post-9/11 world. In this companion volume to The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties (2011), Shipler turns to the First, Fifth and Sixth Amendments and the constitutional rights "routinely overwhelmed" during this, the sixth era in our history when liberties have been especially at risk. Citing national security or public safety, the executive branch has historically in times of national crisis chipped away at the Bill of Rights to deal with an immediate threat, leaving us impoverished for the long term. Shipler chronicles our current drift away from constitutional principles by taking us into interrogation rooms where suspects may, without being informed of their rights, fall prey to the manipulations and deceptive techniques of professional interrogators. He exposes the eagerness with which police and prosecutors embrace false confessions, notwithstanding the inaccuracies and contradictions they contain. He examines the criminal courts, where systemic flaws in our laws have diminished the right to jury trial, where the forfeiture of assets and the revocation of probation are too easily accomplished, where the right to effective assistance of counsel has been shortchanged. Frightened officials, after years of lax enforcement, have now mobilized immigration laws to target entire groups. We have also stifled free speech in our schools and universities, Shipler argues, where authorities regularly ignore Supreme Court precedents, choosing order and discipline over vigorous debate. The same impulse accounts for constricting the public square, where so-called free-speech zones and zealous police surveillance chill the right to petition for redress of grievances. No matter the issue, Shipler humanizes the discussion throughout, linking each topic to stories of real people silenced, marginalized, neglected, bullied, even brutalized by a government that should know better. A colorful account of our early-21st-century faithlessness to principles we at least pretend to revere.