counter create hit Charged: Overzealous Prosecutors, the Quest for Mercy, and the Fight to Transform Criminal Justice in America - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Charged: Overzealous Prosecutors, the Quest for Mercy, and the Fight to Transform Criminal Justice in America

Availability: Ready to download

A renowned investigative journalist exposes the unchecked power of the prosecutor as a driving force in America's mass incarceration crisis, and also offers a way out. The American criminal justice system is supposed to be a contest between two equal adversaries, the prosecution and the defense, with judges ensuring a fair fight. But in practice, it is prosecutors who have A renowned investigative journalist exposes the unchecked power of the prosecutor as a driving force in America's mass incarceration crisis, and also offers a way out. The American criminal justice system is supposed to be a contest between two equal adversaries, the prosecution and the defense, with judges ensuring a fair fight. But in practice, it is prosecutors who have the upper hand, in a contest that is far from equal. More than anyone else, prosecutors decide who goes free and who goes to prison, and even who lives and who dies. The system wasn't designed for this kind of unchecked power, and in Charged, Emily Bazelon shows that it is an underreported cause of enormous injustice—and the missing piece in the mass incarceration puzzle. But that's only half the story. Prosecution in America is at a crossroads. The power of prosecutors makes them the actors in the system—the only actors—who can fix what's broken without changing a single law. They can end mass incarceration, protect against coercive plea bargains and convicting the innocent, and tackle racial bias. And because in almost every state we, the people, elect prosecutors, it is within our power to reshape the choices they make. In the last few years, for the first time in American history, a wave of reform-minded prosecutors has taken office in major cities throughout the country. Bazelon follows them, showing the difference they make for people caught in the system and how they are coming together as a new kind of lobby for justice and mercy. In Charged, Emily Bazelon mounts a major critique of the American criminal justice system—and also offers a way out.


Compare

A renowned investigative journalist exposes the unchecked power of the prosecutor as a driving force in America's mass incarceration crisis, and also offers a way out. The American criminal justice system is supposed to be a contest between two equal adversaries, the prosecution and the defense, with judges ensuring a fair fight. But in practice, it is prosecutors who have A renowned investigative journalist exposes the unchecked power of the prosecutor as a driving force in America's mass incarceration crisis, and also offers a way out. The American criminal justice system is supposed to be a contest between two equal adversaries, the prosecution and the defense, with judges ensuring a fair fight. But in practice, it is prosecutors who have the upper hand, in a contest that is far from equal. More than anyone else, prosecutors decide who goes free and who goes to prison, and even who lives and who dies. The system wasn't designed for this kind of unchecked power, and in Charged, Emily Bazelon shows that it is an underreported cause of enormous injustice—and the missing piece in the mass incarceration puzzle. But that's only half the story. Prosecution in America is at a crossroads. The power of prosecutors makes them the actors in the system—the only actors—who can fix what's broken without changing a single law. They can end mass incarceration, protect against coercive plea bargains and convicting the innocent, and tackle racial bias. And because in almost every state we, the people, elect prosecutors, it is within our power to reshape the choices they make. In the last few years, for the first time in American history, a wave of reform-minded prosecutors has taken office in major cities throughout the country. Bazelon follows them, showing the difference they make for people caught in the system and how they are coming together as a new kind of lobby for justice and mercy. In Charged, Emily Bazelon mounts a major critique of the American criminal justice system—and also offers a way out.

30 review for Charged: Overzealous Prosecutors, the Quest for Mercy, and the Fight to Transform Criminal Justice in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paula DeBoard

    Add CHARGED to your criminal justice reform reading list, along with The New Jim Crow and Just Mercy (... and what else? Comment with suggestions for me). There's a lot to unpack here, but Bazelon takes a look at a particular piece of a justice system that is leading to mass incarceration in unsustainable numbers: the role of prosecutors. Using two very different cases as a narrative thread, Bazelon exposes the reader to a system where winning (not compromise, not restitution, and not justice) is Add CHARGED to your criminal justice reform reading list, along with The New Jim Crow and Just Mercy (... and what else? Comment with suggestions for me). There's a lot to unpack here, but Bazelon takes a look at a particular piece of a justice system that is leading to mass incarceration in unsustainable numbers: the role of prosecutors. Using two very different cases as a narrative thread, Bazelon exposes the reader to a system where winning (not compromise, not restitution, and not justice) is rewarded through promotion and re-election. There's some damning evidence that mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes do little more than create future criminals, and also a hopeful look at prison alternatives currently being piloted. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    Americans like to think their criminal justice system is the fairest in the world, that innocents can’t be proven guilty because of all the constitutional protections in the system. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Emily Bazelon found in Charged. Her latest book looks at the justice system at the prosecutor level. It is a family tree of branches, many of them diseased or rotten. Both prosecutors and defendants can find themselves on the wrong one at any time. It’s a fascinating tour, Americans like to think their criminal justice system is the fairest in the world, that innocents can’t be proven guilty because of all the constitutional protections in the system. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Emily Bazelon found in Charged. Her latest book looks at the justice system at the prosecutor level. It is a family tree of branches, many of them diseased or rotten. Both prosecutors and defendants can find themselves on the wrong one at any time. It’s a fascinating tour, aided by Bazelon’s intimate knowledge, involvement and exhaustive contacts. Bazelon details two tormented cases, of a gun possession in Brooklyn and a murder in Memphis, to help readers live the blind maze that might or might not lead to justice, years after the facts. In between, she describes the offices, officers and environment that the justice system operates in. She finds it not just faulty, but working against its own best interests, the interests of the accused, and the interests of the public. She quotes Erin Murphy, an NYU Law Professor: “We don’t have strong citizen oversight of police, it is highly politicized work, and civil remedies have been totally neutered.” States have been abandoning diversions, education, retraining and supervision in favor of more and longer sentences. The United States now holds 2.2 million in jail, one quarter of those held in the whole world. In addition, there are nearly five million on parole or control of some sort. It is a nation of criminals, apparently. That is not only costly, but hopelessly unworkable. In numerous field trials, those alternatives show themselves to be less expensive and lead to less recidivism than locking people up for the slightest infraction. A good half a million are in jail just because they couldn’t pay the fine or make bail. To Bazelon, this sort of debtors’ prison alone costs the country $25 million a day. It’s the system that needs reforming as much as the accused. There is a special place hell for plea bargaining in Charged. It is a weapon wielded by prosecutors, who threaten sentences three times as long if the accused prefers to take a chance in court. As Judge Jed Rakoff wrote: “In 2012, the average sentence for federal narcotics defendants who entered any kind of plea bargain was five years and four months, while the average sentence for defendants who went to trial was sixteen years.” After months or years of waiting, most cave – 95% of criminal cases end in a plea-bargain. It wouldn’t be so bad if so many weren’t innocent, or if prosecutors didn’t withhold evidence, or if police didn’t lie (testilying ,they call it) or deny the accused their rights. “Once you get used to it, you don’t even notice the injustice,“ Albert Altschuler, University of Chicago law professor says of plea-bargaining. Power has shifted to the prosecutors, as judges are now restricted to formularies. Prosecutors forced to go to trial go for crimes with the longest sentences. Judges are forced to go along. This adds greatly to the power of the plea-bargain. Asked in court if they chose the plea voluntarily, all defendants commit perjury by saying yes. Charged ends powerfully with 21 reasonable, doable recommendations to fix the system. They are listed with clarifications and variations, and then with places where they have been successfully implemented. Because it’s not all bad news. There are innovative, reformers in many jurisdictions, notably Houston, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. 1. Make diversion the rule 2. Charge with restraint and plea-bargain fairly 3. Move toward ending cash bail 4. Encourage the treatment (not criminalization) of mental illness 5. Encourage the treatment (not criminalization) of drug addiction 6. Treat kids like kids 7. Minimize misdemeanors 8. Account for consequences to immigrants 9. Promote restorative justice 10. Shrink probation and parole 11. Change office culture and practice 12. Address racial disparity 13. Create effective conviction review 14. Broaden discovery 15. Hold police accountable 16. End the poverty trap of fines and fees 17. Expunge and seal criminal records 18. Play fair with forensic evidence 19. Work to end the death penalty 20. Calculate cost 21. Employ the language of respect The problem that Bazelon does not venture into is the near anarchy of the entire system. Rights are spelled out at the federal level, but prosecutors work at the county level. Every county has its own policies and methods. There is no consistency or predictability for someone accused of anything. They never know what they’re up against, until they’re in the vortex. Americans don’t have the same rights from one county to the next. Possibly worse is that in the USA, prosecutors and district attorneys tend to be elected, not appointed by a commission of judges, who might know their performance records and honesty. The result is the politicization of justice, as people vote along party lines, not fairness, justice or efficiency. Counties get omnipotent little potentates, who run their departments as they alone see fit, often for their own glory. Nothing says re-elected like a lot people behind bars. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor showed she understood in Utah v Strieff: “It says that your body is subject to invasion while the courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy, but the subject of a carcereal state, just waiting to be catalogued. We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by the police are ‘isolated’. They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.” She said the criminal justice system “accomplishes nothing we think of as its purpose. We think we’re keeping people safe. We’re just making worse criminals.” David Wineberg

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: ARC via the publisher and Netgalley. The last time I did my civic duty of jury duty it was either the day after or day that Larry Krasner fired several lawyers for the DA’s office. It was an interesting day. I’m not sure why they didn’t just cancel us coming in. I tell you this so you know that I live in one of the cities that Bazelon writes about in her new book. According to the studies that Bazelon cites in her book, most Americans agree that the justice system needs to be reforme Disclaimer: ARC via the publisher and Netgalley. The last time I did my civic duty of jury duty it was either the day after or day that Larry Krasner fired several lawyers for the DA’s office. It was an interesting day. I’m not sure why they didn’t just cancel us coming in. I tell you this so you know that I live in one of the cities that Bazelon writes about in her new book. According to the studies that Bazelon cites in her book, most Americans agree that the justice system needs to be reformed and that in many cases the penalties are too harsh. True, there are some people, like one of my co-workers, who believe people like Krasner haven’t been victims of crime so they don’t care about punishment. But as someone who has lived in a city with harsh penalties, they don’t seem to work that well. Bazelon makes an excellent and good case as to why this is as well as detailing how the country got to this point. Her book follows two people who are caught in justice in different parts of the country. There is Noura who is accused of murdering her mother, and Keith who is charged with an illegally holding a gun. Noura is white, from Memphis, and her family, well not rich, is not poor. Keith is from NYC, black, and his family is struggling finically. Both are close in age – not having graduated high school when the book opens. Both are basically innocent. In some ways, Keith is a little luckier because NYC has/had programs that could help him and the idea of punishment was changing. This is not to say that his race, economic background, and neighborhood did not play a role in his charge and his subsequent interaction with police and the system. It is though Keith that Bazelon illustrates the cost to the average person when it comes to the justice system. It isn’t just the charge, but the time that is put on hold, the missed wages, the struggle to move forward on a good path when everything seems to be or is out to get you. Chances are that if you live in a big urban area, you know someone like Keith. Noura’s case is different and illustrates what happens when a prosecutor doesn’t play by the rules and abuses power. (Noura’s case was also first reported on Bazelon for the New York Times). She is charged and eventually found guilty of murdering her mother. She spends years in jail. You might not know someone like Noura, but Noura’s case also illustrates how power can be horribly abused, and her friendships in prison illustrate, as Noura herself points out, that she is hardly alone in suffering a miscarriage of justice; she just has the benefit of being white. What is also important is that the long-lasting effects of being charged are shown. It isn’t just the time and money that is loss, but the emotional and mental damage as well. Bazelon does directly tackle how race plays into what happens. The stories of Keith and Noura also lead to discussions with DA’s, defense lawyers, judges, and activists, some good, some bad – some pushing for change, some frustrated because their hands are tied. The book isn’t anti cop or anti-justice – it is pro-humanity. Reading this right after finishing The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist is enough to make you want to go around smacking people. Thankfully, Bazelon includes a step by step proposal for reforming the justice system, including what people who read her book can do. Not only is the planned sketched out but she also provides cited examples of each step working Highly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    "The unfettered power of prosecutors is the missing piece for explaining how the number of people incarcerated in the United States has quintupled since the 1980s, to a total of almost 2.2 million." PHENOMENAL. Wow! Reading this made me so sad and frustrated for people like Kevin and Noura who are abused by prosecutors looking to bolster their resumes with convictions. This book will make you outraged at what we willingly call “justice” in this country. Bazelon follows two cases, that of a young m "The unfettered power of prosecutors is the missing piece for explaining how the number of people incarcerated in the United States has quintupled since the 1980s, to a total of almost 2.2 million." PHENOMENAL. Wow! Reading this made me so sad and frustrated for people like Kevin and Noura who are abused by prosecutors looking to bolster their resumes with convictions. This book will make you outraged at what we willingly call “justice” in this country. Bazelon follows two cases, that of a young man named Kevin charged with gun possession in Brooklyn, and Noura Jackson, charged with murdering her mother in Memphis. The focus of her narrative is on how corrupt prosecutors use everything at their disposal (including plea bargains) to obtain sentences that don’t fit the crime. There is so much nuance, so much minutiae that it’s easy to get bogged down in the details and still think “surely common sense will prevail here,” but in Bazelon’s book, you see just how often common sense doesn’t prevail, how much bias there is within the justice system, and how prosecutors can wriggle their way out of being held accountable for their actions. I have so many thoughts about this book, it’s taken me a week to write a review about it, and I still can’t seem to work through my emotions to get everything out. If you’re interested in the cases of Adnan Syed or Curtis Flowers, this is a must read. See more of my reviews: Blog // Instagram

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sheard

    Using two stories, one about a Brooklyn teenager arrested on a questionable gun possession charge, and the other of a young Memphis woman accused of brutally murdering her own mother, Bazelon lays out a range of topics about America's broken criminal justice system. In the murder case, Bazelon focuses on prosecutorial misconduct and the impunity with which prosecutors in America now operate. And in the gun possession case, Bazelon shows how some progressive D.A.'s are trying to reform the system Using two stories, one about a Brooklyn teenager arrested on a questionable gun possession charge, and the other of a young Memphis woman accused of brutally murdering her own mother, Bazelon lays out a range of topics about America's broken criminal justice system. In the murder case, Bazelon focuses on prosecutorial misconduct and the impunity with which prosecutors in America now operate. And in the gun possession case, Bazelon shows how some progressive D.A.'s are trying to reform the system, but are having to fight long odds and decades of broken tradition to do so.

  6. 5 out of 5

    vanessa

    For fans of Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson, this is a look at the power of DAs and the varied experience of defendants depending upon the discretion of their respective DAs. It looks at two individuals: Kevin in New York and Norah in Tennessee - their cases, circumstances, and how they manage the process. Bazelon - an investigative journalist, lawyer, and podcast host - reports on criminal justice reform in a way that is interesting through these two people, but also has more general asi For fans of Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson, this is a look at the power of DAs and the varied experience of defendants depending upon the discretion of their respective DAs. It looks at two individuals: Kevin in New York and Norah in Tennessee - their cases, circumstances, and how they manage the process. Bazelon - an investigative journalist, lawyer, and podcast host - reports on criminal justice reform in a way that is interesting through these two people, but also has more general asides related to criminal justice (for example: the new wave of progressive DAs, restorative justice, Supreme Court cases that have affected criminal justice over time). I don't know if this will be exactly accessible to all but if you enjoy reading books about criminal justice and how it affects people, I would definitely recommend.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Darcia Helle

    The American criminal justice system is a mess. This really is an indisputable fact. For nearly a half century we've been fighting a War on Drugs, which has only succeeded in putting more drugs on the streets. We run prisons for profit, filling them with young black males and people too poor to afford bail and/or attorneys. We run a barter system with plea bargains, rather than a justice system with trials by jury. Nothing about what we do is fair. With 'Charged', Emily Bazelon highlights the job The American criminal justice system is a mess. This really is an indisputable fact. For nearly a half century we've been fighting a War on Drugs, which has only succeeded in putting more drugs on the streets. We run prisons for profit, filling them with young black males and people too poor to afford bail and/or attorneys. We run a barter system with plea bargains, rather than a justice system with trials by jury. Nothing about what we do is fair. With 'Charged', Emily Bazelon highlights the job of prosecutors, showing us exactly how much power and control they wield over the system and the people caught within it. She lays out this narrative with a focus on two young people; one whose life is destroyed by an uncaring, unjust system, and the other who benefits immensely from the compassion of a different kind of system. We have the ability to wield both types of power, so why are we so quick to destroy? This book is disturbing, because it should be. But Bazelon also shows us glimmers of hope. In various pockets of our country, justice is becoming a reality rather than a farce. Through these stories, Bazelon shows us that compassion and justice can, in fact, go hand-in-hand. The reality of our system is nothing like an episode of Law & Order. Money, education, status, race, and religion all weigh heavily in how a person is treated, prosecuted, and punished. There is no such thing as equal rights within our criminal justice system, at least not yet. Maybe if enough people read this book, and enough people demand change, someday we can truly claim a "justice" system. *I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.*

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sheri

    Bazelon does a great job of demonstrating the unchecked power of prosecutors in the American criminal justice system. She goes through the historical change that has led to mass incarceration and highlights the way that the DAs office can set a punitive culture that leads to long sentences or one that is more likely to lead to shorter terms and therapeutic responses. She ends the book with a 21 point plan for progressive DAs to grow a culture of criminal justice reform that seems very hopeful. As Bazelon does a great job of demonstrating the unchecked power of prosecutors in the American criminal justice system. She goes through the historical change that has led to mass incarceration and highlights the way that the DAs office can set a punitive culture that leads to long sentences or one that is more likely to lead to shorter terms and therapeutic responses. She ends the book with a 21 point plan for progressive DAs to grow a culture of criminal justice reform that seems very hopeful. As a middle class resident in Madison WI with a progressive DA who has been enacting some of these suggestions I feel like I understand the reasons much more. However, on the ground here (at least) we have not noticed much decline in crime. In fact, the DAs resistance to locking up or pressing charges against some teenage offenders has led to an increase in car theft and individual hijacking. While the ridiculous rates of incarceration in America are terrible and disproportionate number of minority and poor people within the system is atrocious, I feel like some punishment needs to be meted out in order to show repercussions. I really liked Bazelon's discussion of the HOPE project in Hawaii that enjoins guaranteed but small punishment. Overall the criminal justice system needs a lot of work and eliminating bail, reducing sentences, and increasing the likelihood of trails vs. pleas seems like the right trend. Parallel work with social services is also important to reduce the amount of jail for people that just need other types of service (housing and mental health help for example).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Karen Ashmore

    I am a big fan of Emily Bazelon. She is an excellent writer and writes about issues I am passionate about. I have always said if we are to reduce mass incarceration, We must start at the root cause - the D.A. This book focuses on the role of overzealous DAs and their abuse of power and cuddly relationship with cops. She follows the cases of two young victims of an unjust criminal justice system, points out flaws in their prosecution while interweaving the stories of several reform minded DAs in I am a big fan of Emily Bazelon. She is an excellent writer and writes about issues I am passionate about. I have always said if we are to reduce mass incarceration, We must start at the root cause - the D.A. This book focuses on the role of overzealous DAs and their abuse of power and cuddly relationship with cops. She follows the cases of two young victims of an unjust criminal justice system, points out flaws in their prosecution while interweaving the stories of several reform minded DAs in Brooklyn, Philly and Chicago. I also found it interesting that she pointed out that the more nonprofits in a particular area, the lower the crime rate. Nonprofit deserts are breeding grounds for crime. She also compared the effectiveness of some nonprofits. Cure Violence, a program I have long admired is very effective according to data. At the same time, Ceasefire, is well documented to be ineffective and actually causes more harm than good, especially for black and brown folks. It all boils down to the misguided tenet that the job of the DA is to put people in jail when in actuality their job is to implement fairness and justice. Jail should be the last resort and bail reform should be mandatory. Otherwise, we are just criminalizing poverty.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book, more than anything else I’ve consumed, made me particularly sympathetic to the US Second Amendment. In a way. :P It’s also one of those books that looks into the brutal crime and punishment legacy of my childhood in the ’80s and ’90s, and the blockback and reform we are finally starting to see in the current day. Bazelon states in her prologue that she’ll be following two people, Kevin and Noura, through their criminal charges and time in the justice system. They both offer a very speci This book, more than anything else I’ve consumed, made me particularly sympathetic to the US Second Amendment. In a way. :P It’s also one of those books that looks into the brutal crime and punishment legacy of my childhood in the ’80s and ’90s, and the blockback and reform we are finally starting to see in the current day. Bazelon states in her prologue that she’ll be following two people, Kevin and Noura, through their criminal charges and time in the justice system. They both offer a very specific, human voice to her tale. But really, more than that, she’s following around a bunch of criminal justice professionals. Sometimes the names and the legal jargon could get overwhelming for a novice. But her major thesis has to do with prosecution. Prosecutors have a lot of power—they often have sole power to decide on whether a person’s sentencing is light or draconian—and they also can’t be brought to civil suit, thanks to the Supreme Court. (Personally speaking, the right to hold people in positions of power accountable for their actions is one of the pinnacles of this so-called democracy.) There’s an “old school” style of prosecution offices that pride themselves on locking people up. They get accolades and promotions for big sentence cases. Made me think, as I was reading, how prosecutors should have more empathy for all the gun posturing gang members and other kids from the projects, and what they do to gain street cred. I’m grateful to this book for giving me a deeper understanding of realities of life in impoverished urban areas. “Kevin,” not his real name, was charged for gun possession in Brooklyn, NY (he was covering for a friend with a criminal record, which seems to be somewhat standard practice in these sorts of situations.) Kevin would face less of a charge. But as the case went on, it felt ludicrous to regulate simply having a gun in hand as a “violent offense.” There are a lot of “violent offenses”—with hefty prison terms—for actions that didn’t directly endanger humans. Kevin was sent to a diversion program rather than prison—one of these reformative moves that privileges the chance at rehabilitation over punitive punishment. This is due in part to District Attorney Eric Gonazles, one of the progressive lawmakers Bazelon profiles in depth. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have “old school” DA Amy Weirich, from Tennessee, who may have replaced Kevin Feldis from AMERICAN PREDATOR as my “most villainous public servant.” (To be fair, Bazelon put a lot of effort into also portraying Weirich’s point of view, and that of both her supporters and detractors.) Weirich was responsible for charging Noura Jackson with the murder of her mother. When Bazelon first introduced this case, I was a little eyebrow-archy. Noura was a middle-class white girl, so not the usual “criminal” in the US justice system. On its own, her story is more than compelling, and certainly a case for prosecution overreach. (Elsewhere, Bazelon digs into facts and statistics about the over-policing of minorities—Black men in particular—and even posits the thesis that since urban communities don’t trust the system, the system is shooting itself in the foot.) Noura’s case went into reliance on circumstantial “evidence,” the murkiness around what prosecution is supposed to turn over to the defense team before the trial, and more. This is mostly a book about trials and the like, not prison realities, but there’s some overlap. Reminds me of SOLITARY by Albert Woodfox, with similar cases of the questionable nature of plea deals, police tacking random crimes on random perps, and the prosecution’s use of psychological conditioning to get what they want. At the end of the book, Bazelon concedes that by focusing mostly on prosecutors, she may be overlooking other aspects that contribute to our flawed justice and prison system. But it’s hard not to be impressed by her sheer amount of research and relationship-building—not only regarding justice offices, but also social workers, community groups, defense lawyers, and other so-called criminals. Some have questionable guilt. Most turn their lives around when given the chance at treatment less damaging than prison. Damaging to the rest of us, too, as Bazelon and her sources remind us, since prison often hardens people to re-offend. To circle back to my first point, I do want fewer guns in this country. And less drug use, too, to get into that. But it seems clear through this book that the way to do that is not by putting massive amounts of people behind bars. We need to refocus on communities and humanity. I’m grateful I got a glimpse, in these pages.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    Over a dozen years ago I was working on a report for a racial profiling campaign a coalition of organizations had organized. I came across a research study that looked at racial disparities in criminal justice from arrest to sentencing. I was surprised to see prosecutorial decisions, not overpolicing, identified as the most significant factor in racial disparities in incarceration. This sparked an unending interest in how we fight over-incarceration and the use of the criminal justice system as Over a dozen years ago I was working on a report for a racial profiling campaign a coalition of organizations had organized. I came across a research study that looked at racial disparities in criminal justice from arrest to sentencing. I was surprised to see prosecutorial decisions, not overpolicing, identified as the most significant factor in racial disparities in incarceration. This sparked an unending interest in how we fight over-incarceration and the use of the criminal justice system as a boot on the necks of Black people. Charged is an examination of how prosecutors have become the drivers of over-incarceration and racial disparities. Author Emily Bazelon also includes an invaluable appendix detailing several powerful reforms that are necessary to redress the problems in prosecution. Bazelon hangs her argument on two examples of prosecutors at work and the people they hold in their power. In New York, Kevin has been charged with having a gun in his own home. In Memphis, Noura Jackson is accused of killing her mother. Kevin’s story demonstrates how a prosecutor taking a chance and allowing someone a second chance can pay off. Noura’s story tells of a prosecuto with tunnel vision, more committed to a win than to justice, withholding evidence that could help the defense and never paying a price for it. Impunity is the reason prosecutors are so dangerous to justice. They are unpunished when they violate ethical rules and even when they break the law. They also work under the moral hazard of sending people to prison and having the state, not the county, pay the bill, never having to account for their expenditures. The appendix is reason enough to read Charged. The book is based on solid research that is well-documented. Bazelon talked to prosecutors all over the country and attended meetings of reformers. She sat in on trials and bail hearings. She tells story after story of injustice and examines how particular court decisions have exacerbated the problem. She did her homework and then some. The stories are interesting, though often infuriating, and Bazelon does a great job of explaining complex information and distilling a large story to its essence. The one weakness is when writing about events she attended, injecting details like snacks and coffee and audience participation. I understand the idea of details making something come alive, but these details are just silly and distracting. If you care about over-incarceration, systemic racism, or racial justice, you should read this book. If you care about effective policing and budget responsibility, you should read this book. The only people who should skip it are those who are happy with the US locking up more people than China, not per capital, more people in real numbers. I received an e-galley of Charged from the publisher through NetGalley. Charged at Penguin Random House Emily Bazelon author site https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Johanna C.

    This book starts with a thesis: that the "unfettered power" of prosecutors is a problem that has played a significant role in mass incarceration. But the book goes on to present a completely different argument. The argument goes like this: much of criminal law is bad policy; it criminalizes some behaviors that should not be crimes and it mandates sentences that are too harsh. But, Ms. Bazelon suggests, it's too hard to change these statutes. So, a shortcut to changing flawed criminal law is to e This book starts with a thesis: that the "unfettered power" of prosecutors is a problem that has played a significant role in mass incarceration. But the book goes on to present a completely different argument. The argument goes like this: much of criminal law is bad policy; it criminalizes some behaviors that should not be crimes and it mandates sentences that are too harsh. But, Ms. Bazelon suggests, it's too hard to change these statutes. So, a shortcut to changing flawed criminal law is to elect a District Attorney who is willing to subvert those laws using his power to charge and power to offer plea bargains. To use her example, the NY legislature decided a few years ago that gun possession has become a massive problem for public safety. It decided to adopt laws making ownership of an unlicensed and loaded gun a felony with a serious penalty, a mandatory minimum of 3 years in prison. Now imagine a person who is caught by police in possession of an unlicensed and loaded gun. In the ordinary course, you would expect the District Attorney's office to charge the crime that fits the facts: possession of an unlicensed and loaded gun. Ms. Bazelon suggests that the DA could chose to charge a lesser crime instead, such as possession of an unloaded gun or a weapon that is not a gun. In this way, the DA gets around the penalty prescribed by the legislature for this crime, and the defendant is exposed to less risk of incarceration. Also, she proposes, the DA should offer the defendant a plea deal that is drastically lower than the charge. For example, the DA could offer to let the defendant plead guilty to a low level misdemeanor with no jail time, or a deferred judgment (which is where the defendant pleads guilty, but then, if he successfully completes probation, the charge is dismissed and he has no conviction). This is all fine. While some might think it is inappropriate for a single elected executive official to completely overrule the will of the legislative branch, there is nothing illegal or amoral about this proposal. It happens all the time. Consider Trump in charge of the EPA. My problem with the book is not this proposal. My problem is that this proposal is buried underneath the author's extreme bias against prosecutors. First, the introductory statement that mass incarceration is in part the result of unfettered prosecutorial power is nonsense. Her thesis is that prosecutors don't use their discretion ENOUGH. The discretion of a prosecutor is entirely to depart downward; to undercharge a crime or to offer a plea or sentence that is lower than that contemplated by the legislature. The prosecutor does not have the power to overcharge. If a person commits possession of a loaded weapon, an angry or racist prosecutor cannot charge him with manslaughter or assault. I have no quarrel with her suggestion that prosecutors use their discretion to reduce sentences. But it is ridiculous to suggest that charging the crime that actually occurred is an abuse of power. The unfettered power to . . . carry out the orders of the legislature exactly as they intended? Um, sure. The fact that Ms. Bazelon is biased against prosecutors is written on every page of this book. She quotes a law professor who wrote an article titled "Can You Be a Good Person and a Good Prosecutor?" (Her conclusion: "I hope so, but I think not."). Her analysis is dotted with strange assumptions and uncited examples and conclusions. At one point she states: "When a prosecutor refuses to drop the charges against a rape suspect after DNA testing shows that a different man is almost certainly the culprit, defense lawyers sarcastically refer to the new claim that both men committed the rape as the theory of the 'unindicted co-ejaculator.'" Um, what? She's suggesting this is a well known phenomenon, that it happens so often that there's a commonly used term to describe it?? I don't think so. If this ever actually happened, tell me about it, I am curious. Certainly, it sounds ridiculous, and if a prosecutor were stupid enough to believe this and make this argument to a jury, I'm sure they laughed out loud. But to claim that this is so common that there is no need to cite an example is absurd. Ms. Bazelon claims, without citation, that line deputies are motivated to have as many convictions as possible because conviction rates are important in elections. She claims that prosecutors are reluctant to dismiss charges for fear of angering police officers. She claims that, where a defendant does not take a plea deal and instead goes to trial and is convicted, the prosecutor only asks for a sentence greater than the plea offer out of vindictiveness and a desire to intimidate other defendants into taking plea deals. All of these statements are declared in the tone of everyone-knows-it's-true. I was a prosecutor for seven years, and I can tell you that all of this came as a surprise to me. I never heard anyone talk about conviction rates even once (and I could not have told you my office's or my own). I never heard of anyone worrying about dismissing a case because a police officer might be mad (and, in anything except murder or sex assault, the officer would probably never even find out). And I certainly never heard of anyone asking for a sentence after trial to "punish" the defendant for wanting a trial. The whole point of plea offers is to give the defendant an artificial "discount" for taking responsibility and saving the expense and trouble of a trial. The appropriate considerations in offering a plea deal are the crime, the defendant's criminal history, the harm to the victim, sentences received by other similarly situated defendants, and the RISK AND COST OF TRIAL. This last is particularly serious where the primary witness is a victim, as they are often reluctant to testify and see their victimizer in person (if you were raped, how would you feel about sitting ten feet away from him while his lawyer grills you about how many drinks you had or what you were wearing?). And it would not be possible for the DA's office to try every case; there just aren't enough people or enough resources. When a defendant chooses to go to trial and is convicted, the appropriate considerations are all the same, except the last one. You would therefore expect the requested sentence to be higher; the defendant is no longer enjoying a windfall from the fact that the DA's office has limited resources and that witnesses might not want to cooperate. In short, Ms. Bazelon advances an interesting proposal for change. But, she herself is so burdened by her prejudice that she advances the proposal in a way that is going to be very unpersuasive to the very people she should be trying to convince. When I finished this book, I knew for certain that she has never practiced criminal law (on either side) and that she is related to or married to a public defender. Her mixture of ideological conviction and practical ignorance make this unmistakable. It's too bad that her own personal baggage so dominates this book. It could have been more than another shout in the echo chamber, it could have actually made a difference. As it is, I expect it will make Ms. Bazelon popular at the deli counter at Zabar's and in the defense clinic at Yale, but otherwise be irrelevant.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I know very little about the criminal justice system, and throughout, I found myself overwhelmed with how it does and does not work. Bazelon, though, explains these systems well and showcases how it is the system is set up and how Prosecutors have taken on an increasingly powerful role in it. Told primarily through two very different cases -- one of a young black man in a rough area of Brooklyn and one of a middle class white girl from Memphis -- the power of the prosecutors are shown in how the I know very little about the criminal justice system, and throughout, I found myself overwhelmed with how it does and does not work. Bazelon, though, explains these systems well and showcases how it is the system is set up and how Prosecutors have taken on an increasingly powerful role in it. Told primarily through two very different cases -- one of a young black man in a rough area of Brooklyn and one of a middle class white girl from Memphis -- the power of the prosecutors are shown in how they can force plea bargains which ultimately hurt the accused and set them up to be in a lose-lose situation, even if they aren't found guilty. I had a vague idea how mass incarceration looked, but this was an eye opener in how it really works...and how it becomes a political tool for prosecutors who use their "wins" in cases as fuel for reelection (in most states, they're elected). More to come.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christian Santos

    It goes beyond adding a human voice to what so often gets labeled as “criminal”. It shows the distinction between political-action and translation into layers of judicial bureaucracy. As an individual that works in the judicial branch of local government, Bazelon has opened my perception on some of the rigmarole we do as law clerks. Even if you’re not a progressive; the true-crime pace this book reads at, provides valuable insight into our local courts.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    The author details a number of people whose lives have been wrecked by the criminal justice system in different ways. Excessive bail, wrongfully convicted and treatment in different ways. The topic is very interesting and I’ve listened to the author’s podcast and interviews on NPR. My problem is that the book isn’t written in a way that held my interest and struggled to read it through. I did but it was a chore.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie Bruell

    I wish I could give this 10 stars. This is a fascinating, and enraging and, ultimately, maybe hopeful picture of some of the biggest injustices in our "justice" system. I hope this gets a very wide audience. I wish I could give this 10 stars. This is a fascinating, and enraging and, ultimately, maybe hopeful picture of some of the biggest injustices in our "justice" system. I hope this gets a very wide audience.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Chock full of detail displaying the guts of our "justice" system. Chock full of detail displaying the guts of our "justice" system.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cassie Gutman (happybooklovers)

    excellent research, interviews, and explanations of cases and their outcomes, following two in particular with very different circumstances and how the prosecutorial system failed them.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    Charged is a well written, well researched, and much needed book about one of the most proactive forces in perpetuating the epidemic of mass incarceration in America – the unchecked power of prosecutors in the American judicial system. Bazelon does a great job in presenting how the system is rigged to keep defendants – particularly poor and minority defendants – in jail/prison and under the thumb of the judicial system. She assiduously deconstructs systemic problems with such as misuse the bail Charged is a well written, well researched, and much needed book about one of the most proactive forces in perpetuating the epidemic of mass incarceration in America – the unchecked power of prosecutors in the American judicial system. Bazelon does a great job in presenting how the system is rigged to keep defendants – particularly poor and minority defendants – in jail/prison and under the thumb of the judicial system. She assiduously deconstructs systemic problems with such as misuse the bail system, plea deals, and the substantive law itself (ie. the discretionary interpretation of the Brady rule by prosecutors and judges), all of which have participated in keeping people behind bars for extraordinary amounts of time, even for particularly low-level offenses. More poignantly, Bazeon takes aim at the prosecutorial culture in America. She illustrates the tunnel vision that is perpetuated in many prosecutors’ offices across the country. This tunnel vision of winning a conviction at all costs leads to prosecutors using the bail system and plea deals to throw the book at defendants, and, in some of the worst cases, blatantly violating the Brady rule to ensure the conviction of even those defendants that have barely a circumstantial case against them. This area of the book struck me deeply. I have seen this tunnel vision in action and it’s not pretty. I have seen how aspects of legal culture can be a potent and toxic mix of ego and superiority. I have often wondered that the law attracts, in many cases, the type of person that is amenable to this tunnel vision (how often did my own mother say I should be a lawyer because of my refusal to give in an argument). Add to that, legal education that is totally black letter and devoid of any human element, and legal training that places a high price on winning at all cost, and you have a recipe for the worst kind of advocate. To illustrate this point further, Bazelon grounds her research in the story of two very different cases – the case of Kevin, a young man from the wrong side of the tracks who is given an unusual break by the advocates around him, and the case of Noura, a young woman from the seemingly right side of the tracks who gets caught up in a Kafkaesque nightmare at the hands of a prosecutor (Shelby county’s Amy Weirich – the current DA and the county with the worst prosecutorial record in the country) who egregiously twists and undermines the law to reach her goal of conviction at any cost. Both cases were useful in fully illustrating the disturbing levels of power prosecutors have in driving a case and determining how defendants get treated along the way. I will say that I do agree with the review by Adam Gropnik in the New Yorker with regard to Bazelon’s choice to use the case against Noura. It is clear that Bazelon comes firmly from the point of Noura’s innocence and, therefore, heightens the egregious treatment against her with that pov. However, in many ways, this is the anomaly in the system. The reality is that is the guilty people who are feeling the real brunt of the power of the prosecutors - ie. threatening harsh sentencing unless an agreement to a plea deal is made, exorbitant bail that do not match the charges, etc. Should we not be worried that a person may receive life in prison for a non-violent crime that would barely be punished in another country? Should we not be worried about our culture that assumes guilt equals retribution no matter what the facts? This is an important read. It dives into our culture that creates criminals rather than reforms them (SC Justice Sotomayor is quoted: “We think we’re keeping people safe from criminals. We’re just making worse criminals.”), and gives voice to the precious few who are working within the system to change it. How I wish books like this were mandatory in law school!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Rayton

    A painfully important book. I had to go slowly with this because I couldn't handle the injustice for long stretches of time. Why do humans suck so much sometimes?! I'm glad this journalist is advocating for change and getting the message out there. A painfully important book. I had to go slowly with this because I couldn't handle the injustice for long stretches of time. Why do humans suck so much sometimes?! I'm glad this journalist is advocating for change and getting the message out there.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    A nonfiction book about overzealous prosecutors and how our current system of law (and how it's being interpreted, due to convention) ends up sending people to jail who are either innocent are guilty of crimes far more minor than the punishment assigned. The book highlights 2 case studies: one, a man named Kevin who "takes the fall" for a friend by claiming possession of a gun in the friend's apartment; and a girl named Noura who gets arrested for the murder of her mother, but is (apparently) inn A nonfiction book about overzealous prosecutors and how our current system of law (and how it's being interpreted, due to convention) ends up sending people to jail who are either innocent are guilty of crimes far more minor than the punishment assigned. The book highlights 2 case studies: one, a man named Kevin who "takes the fall" for a friend by claiming possession of a gun in the friend's apartment; and a girl named Noura who gets arrested for the murder of her mother, but is (apparently) innocent. These 2 case studies are intertwined with the rest of the book, which is a detailed study of how prosecutors often overreach. One thinks "we have laws and we have a system." I thought I was pretty cynical and non-naive about this before. But this book really highlights how you don't even know the half of it. Prosecutors largely dictate what happens to people convicted of crimes due to coercive plea bargains and overreaching as far as applying maximum sentences. The details in this book are astounding. Only one of the 2 people profiled is non-white, but the racist treatment of him is appalling. He was arrested for watching a dice game in a park, because OTHER people watching were smoking pot. Not him. Then he was tested for drugs and was found positive, but he was not on drugs--he insisted on a re-test and was cleared. Turns out the lab worker mixed up some vials. And this was while he was on parole, so this could have seriously messed up his life. The appalling stories go on and on. The most enlightening thing about this book is just how much wiggle room prosecutors have, and you don't realize how much gray area there is (and how that ends up overpunishing some guilty people, and also over-convicting the innocent).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Will A

    Interesting points about the unfair advantages of prosecutors over defences, with an account of people and organizations promoting a different way of doing the job, somewhat smothered by accounts of two individuals' cases which were covered in more depth than the purpose of the book demanded. Prosecutors in most places: get to request bail way above what is necessary to return defendants to court, leaving them stuck in jail; choose which charges to press in an arbitrarily punitive way; demand a s Interesting points about the unfair advantages of prosecutors over defences, with an account of people and organizations promoting a different way of doing the job, somewhat smothered by accounts of two individuals' cases which were covered in more depth than the purpose of the book demanded. Prosecutors in most places: get to request bail way above what is necessary to return defendants to court, leaving them stuck in jail; choose which charges to press in an arbitrarily punitive way; demand a severe penalty in sentencing for going to trial compared to taking a plea; and thus they have the power to pressurise innocent defendants into plea bargains. They also have the right to withhold exculpatory evidence during plea negotiations, and the effective power to illegally hide it during trial. On top of this, prosecutors have immunity from civil rights lawsuits for actions taken in preparing for or trying a case. The adversarial system and elected district attorney positions incentivize prosecutors to play hardball to win tough punishments, instead of using prison-diversion programs that may result in better outcomes for recidivism. But more progressive-minded prosecutors are being elected, who demand bail for release only where necessary and seek to do their part to reduce crime without resort to mass incarceration.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Living in Philadelphia, home of Larry Krasner, I found this book to be a worthwhile overview of the movement to change prosecutorial practices. A while back, I had only heard of attempts to rein in mandatory minimum sentences or "three strikes you're out" laws, and to reduce prosecution of marijuana-related crimes that disproportionally affect black Americans. It's only in the past few years, as a result of this movement, that I've gained a sense of how aggressive charges and plea agreements put Living in Philadelphia, home of Larry Krasner, I found this book to be a worthwhile overview of the movement to change prosecutorial practices. A while back, I had only heard of attempts to rein in mandatory minimum sentences or "three strikes you're out" laws, and to reduce prosecution of marijuana-related crimes that disproportionally affect black Americans. It's only in the past few years, as a result of this movement, that I've gained a sense of how aggressive charges and plea agreements put a finger on the scale of justice in a more universal sense. I've felt embarrassed by the belatedness of my perceiving this, so I liked having this book as an overview of the issue. I didn't think that it was a particularly challenging book, either intellectually or in terms of changing my mind, more a readable panorama that matched some memorable people to the issues.

  24. 4 out of 5

    QOH

    This is a hard book to read, but a necessary one. Our system is broken and there's not much political will to fix it. People are going to continue to suffer injustice--all I can say is my hat's off to my public defense bar colleagues. You're doing the work of the angels. This is a hard book to read, but a necessary one. Our system is broken and there's not much political will to fix it. People are going to continue to suffer injustice--all I can say is my hat's off to my public defense bar colleagues. You're doing the work of the angels.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    If you want to understand criminal justice in the US, and the need for reform, you need to understand the role of prosecutors and the way the system is rigged. In the early 1970s, the northeast, midwest, and western US had incarceration rates comparable to the Nordics. After that, they skyrocketed. Emily Bazelon explores the roots of our rigged system--and what might be done to change it--partly through the lens of two cases. Kevin (not his real name), was arrested for a gun possession charge in If you want to understand criminal justice in the US, and the need for reform, you need to understand the role of prosecutors and the way the system is rigged. In the early 1970s, the northeast, midwest, and western US had incarceration rates comparable to the Nordics. After that, they skyrocketed. Emily Bazelon explores the roots of our rigged system--and what might be done to change it--partly through the lens of two cases. Kevin (not his real name), was arrested for a gun possession charge in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Noura Jackson was arrested for the murder of her mother, Jennifer, in 2005. The Kings County and Shelby County DAs take very different approaches. Prosecutors have enormous power within the system--deciding who to charge, with what offenses, what bail to seek, and how to handle plea agreements. All of these can and are used to increase conviction rates and hence incarceration, and prosecutors leverage them effectively--piling on charges to given them maximum power, keeping people jailed for lack of cash bail, and using prison time to punish people for choosing a trial instead of a plea. Since poor people, especially poor people of color, both experience prejudice at the hands of the system and have few resources to fight it, they're disproportionately impacted by its whims and failures. The political powers involved in our system--electing judges and DAs, giving wide latitude towards people who then need to show they're "tough on crime"--damage the quality of justice on offer. New Jersey's new system of using a scoring tool for bail and removing most cash bail has been successful. In his book Locked In (which Bazelon references), Fordham professor John Pfaff makes a convincing case that in order to end mass incarceration and its social consequences, we cannot just look at nonviolent crime: we need to consider violent crimes, too. In Kings County (Brooklyn), the new, reform minded DA is doing just that. What crimes need to be considered "violent"? One focus is on guns: gun control, in New York, involves both civil and criminal penalties, pushed heavily by former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Criminal penalties fall predominantly on black people: 87% of people prosecuted in the gun courts were African American, even though Brooklyn is only 1/3 black. Who should be given a second chance and put through a diversion program? In Shelby County, the approach has been the opposite. Here, DA Amy Weirich commits a Brady violation (withholding evidence) in Noura Jackson's murder trial, and the portrait of her and her office is deeply unflattering. Other figures in the Tennessee justice system also come in for a harsh reckoning. This is a vivid, narrative focused read, but with a great deal of legal detail packed in. Readers of The New Jim Crow will recognize a lot of the paths Bazelon takes. Our criminal justice system has been focused on the severity of the punishment and the number of people punished, not the effectiveness of punishments or the long term social consequences. The work being done with criminal justice reform today may show us a new path forward for dealing with crime.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    If you could only read one book on criminal justice reform, this would be the one I'd recommend. (Maybe in conjunction with Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal and/or The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, but if it's just one book, this is the one.) Prosecutors have incredible, essentially unchecked power in the American justice system, which means the county/state/court a case is in has a maj If you could only read one book on criminal justice reform, this would be the one I'd recommend. (Maybe in conjunction with Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal and/or The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, but if it's just one book, this is the one.) Prosecutors have incredible, essentially unchecked power in the American justice system, which means the county/state/court a case is in has a major impact on 1) whether a defendant gets charged at all, 2) what the charge is, and 3) what options are available to resolve the case. I work in a large county with a newly-elected "progressive" DA, and while that has made a difference, nothing substantial will change without the rank-and-file prosecutors being on board and changing how they think about their job (I work with a lot of excellent prosecutors, but as this book shows, all it takes is a few who are more concerned about convictions than justice). I'd like to see a book that covers the transition within a DA's office (like the Philadelphia or Brooklyn ones Bazelon seems to have spent a lot of time with for this book) from old-school to more reform-oriented, because clearly the change isn't an easy one. This book touches on so many aspects of reform, from racial disparity to cash bond, and shows how they're all impacted by the prosecutors' decisions at every level. It's well-written and compelling, not dry at all, and if I had one wish, it'd be for every prosecutors' office in the country to read the 21 suggestions for reform in the appendix and truly take them on board. Imagine the difference that could make, if every prosecutor cared more about doing the right thing instead of their conviction rates.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emilio III

    Charged is a book about the criminal justice system and mass incarceration. The author uses two separate cases to help illustrate her overall theme of criminal justice reform. Rather than look at the problem from a policy standpoint, author Emily Bazelon focuses on the role of the prosecutor. The author chose two cases to focus on: one involving a weapons charge and the other a murder. As the author follows the two cases, the many faults and disparities of our broken criminal justice system are l Charged is a book about the criminal justice system and mass incarceration. The author uses two separate cases to help illustrate her overall theme of criminal justice reform. Rather than look at the problem from a policy standpoint, author Emily Bazelon focuses on the role of the prosecutor. The author chose two cases to focus on: one involving a weapons charge and the other a murder. As the author follows the two cases, the many faults and disparities of our broken criminal justice system are laid bare. Bazelon's book carefully examines all aspects of our current justice system. She rightfully focuses on the role of the prosecutor. If you want to reduce mass incarceration, reform needs to start here. Most people think that prosecutors are fair and balanced. They protect the public from criminals and only seek out appropriate sentences. The truth is far from this idealized notion. Prosecutors have almost unlimited power. To reduce the high costs of trials, they offer plea deals. They threaten those who refuse plea deals with additional charges and lengthy prison sentences. For those who do go to trial, they soon learn that they are at a distinct disadvantage. There are thousands of people in prison right now who are serving unjust sentences simply because a prosecutor decided to teach them a lesson. From a narrative standpoint, the book falls short. Besides jumping from one case to the other, the author interweaves anecdotes and case files to help explain the point she is trying to make. For example, when she gets to the topic of bail for the murder suspect, she spends the next fifty pages discussing the many problems associated with the way high bail demands leads to mass incarceration. These are important topics to cover, but the many tangents lead to a disjointed narrative. There's no question that this book is required reading for anyone involved in criminal justice. The two cases, however, that the author chose to highlight were not well suited for the intended purpose.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shani

    I went back and forth so many times on this one trying to decide my thoughts. For the side the author was advocating in favor of, she did an excellent job. The research was thorough, and the arguments were thought provoking and convincing at times. She offered solutions to mass incarceration by making cost vs. benefit analysis, shown what types of penalties are most effective and articulated how recidivism rates can be lowered by keeping non-violent offenses free from astronomical fines and pris I went back and forth so many times on this one trying to decide my thoughts. For the side the author was advocating in favor of, she did an excellent job. The research was thorough, and the arguments were thought provoking and convincing at times. She offered solutions to mass incarceration by making cost vs. benefit analysis, shown what types of penalties are most effective and articulated how recidivism rates can be lowered by keeping non-violent offenses free from astronomical fines and prison sentences, especially when it comes to younger offenders. I am completely sold on rehabilitation when the offenders have a stable(ish) support system, a desire to change, and morose for their actions. I also learned quite a bit about the process of plea deals and the detriment they can have. The author also sold me 100% on doing away with private bail bondsmen, and creating more judicial oversight with prosecutors especially if intentional actions are made against Brady Law. That being said, I had to mark down a star for a critical reason. WAY too many excuses were made for the behavior of the perpetrators, and often WAY too many chances were given. In a judicial system that cares far too much about the rights of the criminals as opposed to the pain and violation of innocent victims, I still am a firm believer that actions have consequences, and when those consequences are defined by minimum sentences, it is not the fault of the court (or the 97% of Americans who don't break the law) when an individual CHOOSES to disregard the laws in place. It is still their choice to pick right or wrong, and we shouldn't bend over backwards to show that this behavior is okay or not bad enough to warrant punishment. Overall, I learned quite a bit about the system and will do my due diligence by trying to advocate change.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jolene Gilbert-Bruno

    Really important topic, but got bogged down in a few things places that were less narrative and more facts and figures. My favorite part of the book was that it didn’t just point out the MYRIAD issues in our criminal justice system. The author traced the history to pinpoint where and how things go awry and she outlined successful programs that have helped reform and rebuild the system. Plus everything is backed up by data, which bears out time and again that investing in diversion programs, drug Really important topic, but got bogged down in a few things places that were less narrative and more facts and figures. My favorite part of the book was that it didn’t just point out the MYRIAD issues in our criminal justice system. The author traced the history to pinpoint where and how things go awry and she outlined successful programs that have helped reform and rebuild the system. Plus everything is backed up by data, which bears out time and again that investing in diversion programs, drug treatment, mental health care, and communities in general are the single best step we can take toward a more fair, just, and peaceful society. If nothing else, read the 20 pages at the back titled 21 principles for the 21st century prosecutor. (https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/d...)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jan Reatherford

    This is a very disturbing account of the abuse of power by prosecutors that is widely accepted in the U.S. criminal justice system. It also points out the real danger of unintended consequences when a policy that might at first glance seem to be a good idea turns out disastrous in practice. If you have ever said or thought “ I have nothing to fear because I’ve done nothing wrong” or “why did he/she run from the police if they didn’t do anything”, this book will make you seriously reconsider that This is a very disturbing account of the abuse of power by prosecutors that is widely accepted in the U.S. criminal justice system. It also points out the real danger of unintended consequences when a policy that might at first glance seem to be a good idea turns out disastrous in practice. If you have ever said or thought “ I have nothing to fear because I’ve done nothing wrong” or “why did he/she run from the police if they didn’t do anything”, this book will make you seriously reconsider that line of thinking. The book focuses on the role that prosecutors play, which is substantial, but also the acceptance of so many unbelievable actions by other players in the justice system (police, judges, politicians, etc.). There are, of course, many good decent people who are fighting for reform and trying to get the spotlight on the injustices but it’s an uphill battle within a long established pattern of power and politics. In many instances, the complete lack of empathy or consideration for a fellow human being was simply appalling.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.