Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

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Focusing on Washington, D.C., James Forman, Jr.’s nuanced and insightful Locking Up Our Own asks the question, “How did a majority-black jurisdiction end up incarcerating so many of its own?” He begins by explaining that, “spurred by a heroin epidemic, homicides doubled and tripled in D.C. and many other American cities throughout the 1960s.” From there, Mr. Forman explores how this epidemic and the attendant violence influenced many African Americans in ways both obvious and subtle, shaping their support for tough-on-crime measures that disproportionately incarcerated members of their own community.
From the debates surrounding marijuana legalization and gun control to mandatory minimum sentences, Locking Up Our Own relentlessly explores the startling paradox that punitive measures today considered discriminatory were initially supported in the black community on the grounds of self-protection. For example, admitting his aggressive attempts to rid D.C. of guns would disproportionately affect “young black males,” U.S. Attorney Eric Holder nonetheless “argued that such concerns were outweighed by the need to protect blacks from crime.” Mr. Forman excels throughout the book at contextualizing these types of arguments, showing how factors like class divisions within the black community helped influence these calls for stricter penalties.


Reviewed By:

Author James Forman Jr.
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 320 pages
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publish Date 2017-Apr-18
ISBN 9780374189976
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue June 2017
Category Current Events & Politics
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