An investigation, by a Yale Law School professor and former D.C. public defender, into mass incarceration in the US, with a focus on the part played by African-Americans in shaping criminal justice policy.
...[a] superb and shattering first book ... That is truly what this book is about, and what makes it tragic to the bone: How people, acting with the finest of intentions and the largest of hearts, could create a problem even more grievous than the one they were trying to solve ... This is the exceptionally delicate question that he tries to answer, with exemplary nuance, over the course of his book. His approach is compassionate. Seldom does he reprimand the actors in this story for the choices they made ... The stories he shares are not just carefully curated to make us think differently about criminal justice (though they will, particularly about that hallowed distinction between nonviolent drug offenders and everyone else); they are stories that made Forman himself think differently, and it’s in telling them that he sheds his cautious, measured self and becomes a brokenhearted, frustrated civil servant.
...[a] poignant and insightful new book ... Forman deftly moves between examples of black community support for a law-and-order crackdown and the dire present-day consequences of our increasingly punitive and aggressive war on crime.
...a masterly account of how a generation of black elected officials wrestled with recurring crises of violence and drug use in the nation’s capital ... Forman’s novel claim is this: What most explains the punitive turn in black America is not a repudiation of civil rights activism, as some have argued, but an embrace of it ... compel[s] readers to wrestle with some very tough questions about the nature of American democracy and its deep roots in racism, inequality and punishment.