Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 249
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, a book written by former Washington, DC, public defender James Forman Jr., published in 2017, is an exposé demonstrating how American jurisprudence may be racially targeted.
As the tough-on-crime movement gathered force, those who had been arrested or convicted rarely participated in debates over criminal justice policy, in D.C. or nationally. They rarely told their stories. And their invisibility helps explain why our criminal justice system became so punitive. (chapter 1, "Gateway to the War on Drugs—Marijuana, 1975)
Former explains how a culture of fear (especially among African Americans) of recidivism made the voices of those convicted comparatively silenced. Former also investigates the types of crimes that are committed and aggressively legislated against. He explains that gun crime "wasn’t equally distributed throughout black America. Rather, it was concentrated among the poorest blacks, who were forced into living conditions that generated violence. Few” (chapter 2, "Black Lives Matter—Gun Control, 1975).
Finally, Former is attentive to the fact that racist legislative efforts represented a larger class struggle wherein the poor suffered at the hands of a fearful middle and upper-middle class:
By the year 2000, the lifetime risk of incarceration for black high school dropouts was ten times higher than it was for African Americans who had attended college. (Introduction)
Former's perspective on the race and class issues at stake with legislation such as stop-and-frisk and repeat offense laws is unique, and his book is well supplied with statistics and anecdotes.
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