by Amy Bach ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 2009
A clear exposure of a dirty secret well known to lawyers and apt to outrage everyone else.
A lawyer-journalist examines the shocking gap between theory and practice in the everyday administration of criminal justice.
In the tradition of Lincoln Steffens, Bach’s investigative reporting works not so much to expose individual rogues and villains, but rather to examine how American institutions, in this case the criminal-justice system, fall so far short of our ideals. To demonstrate the erosion of our society’s commitment to fairness, and to illustrate the systemic problem of legal professionals so accustomed to lazy and expedient collusion that they cannot see themselves at fault, Bach usefully focuses on four state criminal-court stories. She introduces us to a Georgia public defender who fails to investigate the facts of various charges and neglects even to meet with clients until the moment he plea bargains their cases. The author examines an upstate New York judge who often doesn’t inform defendants of their right to counsel, regularly imposes excessive bail and frequently coerces guilty pleas from the scared and befuddled who come before him. Bach looks at a Mississippi prosecutor who declines to prosecute bloody crimes and an Illinois prosecutor, caught up in an intraoffice drive to convict, who takes thin cases to trial. In each instance there are reasons, many understandable and fairly set out by Bach, as to why these lapses routinely occur. But to work properly, the justice system requires a zealous defense, an attentive prosecution and an impartial judge enforcing rules of evidence and procedure. Numerous Supreme Court decisions, many effortlessly translated here for the nonprofessional, offer a roadmap for proper practice. Instead, only the roughest sort of justice is meted out, and very few appear to notice or care. To address the problem, Bach calls for greater transparency and outside monitoring of the court system, but at a time when some states are verging on bankruptcy and the budgets of many others are strained to breaking, this widespread pattern of injustice will likely persist.A clear exposure of a dirty secret well known to lawyers and apt to outrage everyone else.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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