Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

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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.

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About the author

James Forman Jr. is a clinical professor of law at Yale Law School. He has written for The New York Times, The New Republic, numerous law reviews, and other publications. A former clerk for Judge William Norris of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the United States Supreme Court, he spent six years as a public defender in Washington, D.C. He is the cofounder of the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Apr 18, 2017
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780374712907
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Law Enforcement
Social Science / Criminology
Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This book examines the national criminal justice system’s and the state of Tennessee criminal justice system’s policies in terms of how they balance the citizens’ need for prisons with the private sector's desire for profits and the policies’ effects on the incarceration rate of African American males in the state of Tennessee. There are important, often neglected, connections among prison sentencing, felony disenfranchisement, voting, and the continuing problematic issues of race in America, particularly in Tennessee. This state serves as a representative case study from which to examine local, state, and national criminal justice systems, disparate outcomes, and social inequality. The book therefore investigates ethically questionable public-private business relationships and arrangements that contribute to socially-constructed economic policy instruments used to fulfill conservatives and white supremacists’ objectives for white domination in Tennessee. Through mass incarceration and felony disenfranchisement, African Americans—in particular, African American males—have been discriminated against and systematically excluded from political participation, employment, housing, education, and other social programs. This book is grounded on the Racial Contract Theory and Racial Group Threat Theory (Racial Threat Theory or Group Threat Theory). The Racial Contract Theory is used to show how racism itself is an intentionally devised, institutionalized, political arrangement of official and unofficial rule, of official and unofficial policy, socioeconomic benefit, and norms for the preferential distribution of material wealth and opportunities. The Racial Group Threat Theory is employed to demonstrate how growth in the comparative size of a subordinate group increases that group’s capacity to use democratic political and economic institutions for its benefit at the expense of the dominant group.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, passed in 1865, has long been viewed as a definitive break with the nation’s past by abolishing slavery and ushering in an inexorable march toward black freedom. Slaves of the State presents a stunning counterhistory to this linear narrative of racial, social, and legal progress in America.

Dennis Childs argues that the incarceration of black people and other historically repressed groups in chain gangs, peon camps, prison plantations, and penitentiaries represents a ghostly perpetuation of chattel slavery. He exposes how the Thirteenth Amendment’s exception clause—allowing for enslavement as “punishment for a crime”—has inaugurated forms of racial capitalist misogynist incarceration that serve as haunting returns of conditions Africans endured in the barracoons and slave ship holds of the Middle Passage, on plantations, and in chattel slavery.

Childs seeks out the historically muted voices of those entombed within terrorizing spaces such as the chain gang rolling cage and the modern solitary confinement cell, engaging the writings of Toni Morrison and Chester Himes as well as a broad range of archival materials, including landmark court cases, prison songs, and testimonies, reaching back to the birth of modern slave plantations such as Louisiana’s “Angola” penitentiary.

Slaves of the State paves the way for a new understanding of chattel slavery as a continuing social reality of U.S. empire—one resting at the very foundation of today’s prison industrial complex that now holds more than 2.3 million people within the country’s jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers.

For African American men without a high school diploma, being in prison or jail is more common than being employed—a sobering reality that calls into question post-Civil Rights era social gains. Nearly 70 percent of young black men will be imprisoned at some point in their lives, and poor black men with low levels of education make up a disproportionate share of incarcerated Americans. In Invisible Men, sociologist Becky Pettit demonstrates another vexing fact of mass incarceration: most national surveys do not account for prison inmates, a fact that results in a misrepresentation of U.S. political, economic, and social conditions in general and black progress in particular. Invisible Men provides an eye-opening examination of how mass incarceration has concealed decades of racial inequality. Pettit marshals a wealth of evidence correlating the explosion in prison growth with the disappearance of millions of black men into the American penal system. She shows that, because prison inmates are not included in most survey data, statistics that seemed to indicate a narrowing black-white racial gap—on educational attainment, work force participation, and earnings—instead fail to capture persistent racial, economic, and social disadvantage among African Americans. Federal statistical agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau, collect surprisingly little information about the incarcerated, and inmates are not included in household samples in national surveys. As a result, these men are invisible to most mainstream social institutions, lawmakers, and nearly all social science research that isn't directly related to crime or criminal justice. Since merely being counted poses such a challenge, inmates' lives—including their family background, the communities they come from, or what happens to them after incarceration—are even more rarely examined. And since correctional budgets provide primarily for housing and monitoring inmates, with little left over for job training or rehabilitation, a large population of young men are not only invisible to society while in prison but also ill-equipped to participate upon release. Invisible Men provides a vital reality check for social researchers, lawmakers, and anyone who cares about racial equality. The book shows that more than a half century after the first civil rights legislation, the dismal fact of mass incarceration inflicts widespread and enduring damage by undermining the fair allocation of public resources and political representation, by depriving the children of inmates of their parents' economic and emotional participation, and, ultimately, by concealing African American disadvantage from public view.
“In this amazing book, Fabio shows you how to make delicious Italian dishes easily and quickly! It’s the next best thing to having him in your kitchen.” —Antonia Lofaso, Chef and Restaurateur of Scopa Italian Roots, The Local Peasant, Sycamore Tavern and Black Market Liquor Bar

Dinner doesn’t have to be daunting. In half an hour or less you can cook up an Italian meal at home like a professional chef. In this case, just like Top Chef star Fabio Viviani. Infused with his warmth and humor, this book brings Fabio into your kitchen.

If Fresh Fettuccini with Manila Clams and Spicy Sausages and Chicken Pizzaiola with Mozzarella and Pepperoni seem like recipes that are out of reach, think again. Fabio shows home chefs how to cook “Grandma Style” (that is, like an intuitive Italian), and even those on a tight schedule will soon be whipping up great dinners. The over 100 no-fail recipes include Mascarpone and Ricotta-Stuffed Peaches, 15-Minute Seafood Cioppino, and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. Fabio’s 30 Minute Italian provides lots of time saving tips, from freezing batches of herbs and dressing to making your own pasta dough in three minutes tops.

Along the way, Fabio shares stories from his early life in Florence where he apprenticed at age five to his wheel-chair-bound and wooden-spoon-wielding great-grandmother to his American life cooking dinner for his wife and infant son in Chicago. Gorgeously illustrated throughout, and filled with his through-the-roof energy and charisma, Fabio’s 30 Minute Italian is guaranteed to make you enjoy your time in the kitchen—and the results!

We hear plenty about the widening income gap between the rich and the poor in America and about the expanding distance separating the haves and the have-nots. But when detailing the many things that the poor have not, we often overlook the most critical—their health. The poor die sooner. Blacks die sooner. And poor urban blacks die sooner than almost all other Americans. In nearly four decades as a doctor at hospitals serving some of the poorest communities in Chicago, David A. Ansell, MD, has witnessed firsthand the lives behind these devastating statistics. In The Death Gap, he gives a grim survey of these realities, drawn from observations and stories of his patients.

While the contrasts and disparities among Chicago’s communities are particularly stark, the death gap is truly a nationwide epidemic—as Ansell shows, there is a thirty-five-year difference in life expectancy between the healthiest and wealthiest and the poorest and sickest American neighborhoods. If you are poor, where you live in America can dictate when you die. It doesn’t need to be this way; such divisions are not inevitable. Ansell calls out the social and cultural arguments that have been raised as ways of explaining or excusing these gaps, and he lays bare the structural violence—the racism, economic exploitation, and discrimination—that is really to blame. Inequality is a disease, Ansell argues, and we need to treat and eradicate it as we would any major illness. To do so, he outlines a vision that will provide the foundation for a healthier nation—for all.

Inequality is all around us, and often the distance between high and low life expectancy can be a matter of just a few blocks. But geography need not be destiny, urges Ansell. In The Death Gap he shows us how we can face this national health crisis head-on and take action against the circumstances that rob people of their dignity and their lives.
NOW A NEW YORK TIMES, PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, INDIEBOUND, LOS ANGELES TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, CHRONICLE HERALD, SALISBURY POST, GUELPH MERCURY TRIBUNE, AND BOSTON GLOBE BESTSELLER | NAMED A BEST/MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2017 BY: The Washington Post • Bustle • Men's Journal • The Chicago Reader • StarTribune • Blavity • The Guardian • NBC New York's Bill's Books • Kirkus • Essence

“One of the most frank and searing discussions on race ... a deeply serious, urgent book, which should take its place in the tradition of Baldwin's The Fire Next Time and King's Why We Can't Wait." —The New York Times Book Review

Toni Morrison hails Tears We Cannot Stop as "Elegantly written and powerful in several areas: moving personal recollections; profound cultural analysis; and guidance for moral redemption. A work to relish."

Stephen King says: "Here’s a sermon that’s as fierce as it is lucid...If you’re black, you’ll feel a spark of recognition in every paragraph. If you’re white, Dyson tells you what you need to know—what this white man needed to know, at least. This is a major achievement. I read it and said amen."

Short, emotional, literary, powerful—Tears We Cannot Stop is the book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations will want to read.

As the country grapples with racist division at a level not seen since the 1960s, one man's voice soars above the rest with conviction and compassion. In his 2016 New York Times op-ed piece "Death in Black and White," Michael Eric Dyson moved a nation. Now he continues to speak out in Tears We Cannot Stop—a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.

"The time is at hand for reckoning with the past, recognizing the truth of the present, and moving together to redeem the nation for our future. If we don't act now, if you don't address race immediately, there very well may be no future."

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