PositiveThe Washington Post... [an] engrossing memoir ... Barnett’s critique of mass incarceration is most persuasive when it reveals the ways that both crime and punishment disrupt families and intimate relationships ... A Knock at Midnight isn’t preachy in any sense, but its vignettes about the lives of women in the \'New Jim Crow\' era are powerful and devastating ... Barnett does not have a negative word to say about many individuals, not even the judges and jailers responsible for the injustices she describes. Barnett is mad at systems and gives most of the people who carry them out a pass ... The same glass-half-full approach applies to her engagement with Obama, who granted clemency petitions for seven of her clients, and whom she appropriately credits with doing more for prisoners than any president before him. Barnett’s description of a White House reception for former inmates is touching. She glosses over the view through the glass-half-empty lens: that Obama did not go nearly far enough, which caused his pardon attorney to resign in disappointment ... Barnett cites Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy as inspirations, but in terms of insightful analysis and new policy prescriptions, A Knock at Midnight has little to add; it reads instead like the women-centered version of those other works. This is still a significant intervention because, until recently, Black women’s experiences in the criminal legal system have not received anywhere near the attention of their male counterparts.
PositiveThe Washington Post... reads like two books. Both are crucial to understanding the wretchedness of the American criminal legal process, and both offer something missing from most other books about mass incarceration: hope ... [Bazelon\'s] prose is so engrossing that even though the defendants’ stories are woven into the other parts of the book, I skipped those sections on my first read because I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. Readers who enjoy police procedurals will be gripped by Bazelon’s new genre, the prosecutor procedural, which is even more suspenseful because prosecutors are the most powerful and the most unregulated participants in the U.S. legal system ... the book’s breathless subtitle noting a movement to transform prosecution seems overly optimistic.
Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
PositiveThe Washington PostThe Black and the Blue has enough accounts of police atrocities to launch a thousand Black Lives Matter marches ... Matthew Horace’s analysis is well researched and cogently presented, even if his ideas are not particularly new or creative ... What’s different about The Black and the Blue is that it’s a cop on the force for 28 years making the case for change — an African American cop ... It’s these new stories, heretofore unknown except by the cop perpetrators and their victims, that are most horrifying because Horace presents them as everyday work ... The Black and the Blue, co-written by Ron Harris, a Howard University journalism professor, does an exemplary job of indicting the system, but sometimes what people want is the indictment of an individual officer. After more than 200 pages, the reader is not told whether Horace thinks officer Darren Wilson did anything wrong when he shot Brown on the street in Ferguson ... The Black and the Blue is an important contribution to a growing body of work about minority police officers. Horace’s authority as an experienced officer, as well as his obvious integrity and courage, provides the book with a gravitas that might convince some readers apt to turn a blind eye to the activists and scholars who are the primary critics of racialized policing.
PositiveThe Washington Post...the most revealing stories Taibbi tells — the ones that made me put the book down because it got too heartbreaking — are about other African Americans, mostly male and poor, who were stopped and frisked, strip-searched, sexually assaulted, set up, beaten, or killed for the tragic reason that racist cops didn’t like them, or the even more tragic reason that these kinds of humiliations are ordained by U.S. law and policy ... The narrative unfolds like an episode of The Wire, but without the comic relief — or that show’s grudging empathy for the cops. Some readers might object to Taibbi’s tone of sustained outrage; the book is not objective, if that means giving equal weight to the concerns of the police and the victims of their misconduct ... Taibbi’s account is bleak. For African Americans, the criminal laws work too well and the civil rights laws not well at all. A black man has no rights that a cop is bound to respect.