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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 288

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America is a non-fiction exploration of how African Americans in positions of power have exacerbated the epidemic of mass incarceration. Forman tells a mix of personal stories and historical accounts. As such, there are no defined characters. However, below I have listed several of the figures that make an appearance in the book.

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The author himself is a major character in the analysis. James Forman Jr. was a public defender in Washington and recounts several stories that brought him to understand the immorality of mass incarceration. The first story he tells is of a young fifteen-year-old black boy who is detained. Forman has the realization that everyone involved in this boy’s detention was black. The officer, the mayor, and police chief were all black. Even more, Forman considers the role of the nearly all-black city council in writing the laws that landed this fifteen year old in jail.

He then traces how the policies that disproportionately incarcerate men of Color came to be written. He talks about how faith leaders, police, city council members, activity, reporters and parents of victims all played a role in the writing of these laws. Below are some of the people he specifically highlights:

  • Maxine Waters who is a California Congresswoman and former state assemblywoman
  • Johnnie Cochran who was OJ Simpson’s legal defense
  • Jesse Jackson a prominent Civil Rights activist

Forman keys in on the role Eric Holder played in the war on crime when he was attorney for Washington, DC. He takes credit for starting Operation Ceasefire. This as an initiative that promoted stop and frisk in the city. Holder even acknowledged the likelihood of racial profiling with the new policy.

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