... a persuasive indictment of prosecutorial excess ... rich, novelistic prose ... Bazelon interweaves Kevin’s and Noura’s stories with a remarkable amount of academic research by law professors, criminologists and other social scientists. The endnotes, replete with charts and graphs, run to more than 50 pages and acknowledge intellectual debts to such thinkers as Angela J. Davis, Paul Butler, Michelle Alexander and William Stuntz. This combination of powerful reporting with painstaking research yields a comprehensive examination of the modern American criminal justice system that appeals to both the head and the heart.
Charged, though far-reaching in purpose, is above all a study of two cases in which prosecutorial misconduct or overreach put two people through hell. She tells these stories in microscopic detail, analyzing the background of each bizarre stop along the infernal circle—why bail is so hard to get and why it exists at all; why public defenders are often so inadequate—in a way that allows the specific case stories to become general truths. Her book achieves what in-depth first-person reporting should: it humanizes the statistics, makes us aware that every courtroom involves the bureaucratic regimentation of an individual’s life. She has a good ear for talk, and a fine eye for detail ... Yet, though Bazelon’s larger points about the madness of prosecutorial power are all impeccably well taken, the two central cases she uses to illustrate these points are somewhat surprising choices ... The matter of...innocence...may be less certain than Bazelon supposes ... Charged is meant to, and does, provoke pity and terror in us at the sheer inhumanity of all imprisonment ... [the] struggle to make sense of an existence now permanently enclosed within a prison’s walls is one of the more moving accounts in Bazelon’s book.
... 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.