Locking Up Our Own

  • by James Forman Jr.
  • Narrated by Kevin R. Free
  • 8 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

An original and consequential argument about race, crime, and the law.
Today, Americans are debating our criminal justice system with new urgency. Mass incarceration and aggressive police tactics - and their impact on people of color - are feeding outrage and a consensus that something must be done. But what if we only know half the story? In Locking Up Our Own, the Yale legal scholar and former public defender James Forman Jr. weighs the tragic role that some African Americans themselves played in escalating the war on crime. As Forman shows, the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office around the country amid a surge in crime. Many came to believe that tough measures - such as stringent drug and gun laws and "pretext traffic stops" in poor African American neighborhoods - were needed to secure a stable future for black communities. Some politicians and activists saw criminals as a "cancer" that had to be cut away from the rest of black America. Others supported harsh measures more reluctantly, believing they had no other choice in the face of a public safety emergency. Drawing on his experience as a public defender and focusing on Washington, DC, Forman writes with compassion for individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas - from the young men and women he defended to officials struggling to cope with an impossible situation. The result is an original view of our justice system as well as a moving portrait of the human beings caught in its coils.

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Historical Analysis with Implications for Today

What did you love best about Locking Up Our Own?

Locking Up Our Own is a fascinating window into an issue that has long confounded many of us – how good intentions, often times responding to real issues, could have driven a problem so devastating and consequential as mass incarceration. In telling this story, though, Forman goes beyond a historical account. By describing the way that well-intentioned policies drove this problem, he sheds light on many reforms that are being attempted today. He describes many of the unintended consequences that these reforms could have, perhaps ones that even delay or inhibit our goals. This book is important for anyone who studies, practices, cares about or is affected by the justice system, or who cares about finding ways that we can advance social change generally.


What was one of the most memorable moments of Locking Up Our Own?

For me, the part that stood out most was the push for all Black police forces, followed by the realization that issues with policing transcend race.


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- Dorothy

Very eye opening!

I learned much listening and will listen again I hope we will fix the system.
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- Mike Fisher

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-19-2017
  • Publisher: Recorded Books