An important, first-of-its-kind book.

MISDEMEANORLAND

CRIMINAL COURTS AND SOCIAL CONTROL IN AN AGE OF BROKEN WINDOWS POLICING

An in-depth study of misdemeanor justice in New York City.

In 1994, the city initiated “Broken Windows” (or quality-of-life) policing, under which low-level offenses—noise complaints, panhandling, public drunkenness, etc.—became important enforcement priorities in an effort to restore a “society of civility” and prevent minor criminals from growing into major criminals. The approach, championed by Police Commissioner William Bratton, has since been widely adopted elsewhere. In this startling scholarly debut, Kohler-Hausmann (Law and Sociology/Yale Univ.) explores what happened to all those arrests when they arrived in the criminal courts. After three years of research and interviews, she finds the hundreds of thousands of individuals who flooded the lower courts—“almost exclusively poor people of color from the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods”—did not face sentences based on guilt or innocence. Rather, their arrests were used as a form of social control. Each defendant underwent a process of sorting, testing, and monitoring, aimed at gathering information to help identify “potential deviants” for later court encounters. Under this managerial rather than adjudicative approach, the courts exerted their power through “the techniques of marking through criminal justice record keeping, the procedural hassle of case processing [long waits, filthy conditions, frequent court appearances, etc.], and mandated performance [drug treatment, community service, etc.] evaluated by court actors.” Based on a dissertation and burdened by the weight of its scholarly apparatus, the book steps gingerly around the troublesome conclusion that “Broken Windows” arrests in New York are being used to keep close tabs on repeat minor offenders and to keep the lid on heavily policed black and Hispanic communities. While overly detailed, it offers vivid examples of the courtroom experiences of illegal peddlers, squeegee cleaners, and other subfelony offenders and raises innumerable questions about “Broken Windows,” how its information-collecting and surveillance aspects live on in the courts, and the ongoing relationship between disadvantaged New Yorkers and the criminal justice system.

An important, first-of-its-kind book.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-17430-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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