A thorough and innovative look at a burgeoning national problem.

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FIXING THE U.S. CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

A book calls for the reform of the American criminal justice system.

The United States has the highest incarceration rates in the world and a prison system that annually imposes unsustainably astronomical costs. Even worse, Brakke (The Price of Justice in America, 2016, etc.) argues, the social costs of its dysfunction are devastating. Families are financially ruined and torn asunder by emotional distress; children are forced to grow up without their fathers; and a toxic prison culture contributes to skyrocketing rates of criminal recidivism. The author investigates the issue from a myriad of broad perspectives, thoughtfully discussing prosecutorial and judicial dereliction, police misconduct, and systemic problems like a plea-bargaining system that unfairly disadvantages poorer defendants. He excoriates the failed war on drugs, not only for its role in filling prisons with nonviolent offenders saddled with indefensibly punitive sentences, but also for its pervasive racial bias. Furthermore, Brakke blames sensationalist journalism for irresponsibly depicting defendants as guilty irrespective of the available evidence and for fanning the already hot flames of racial tension. In his passionate and meticulous book, Brakke prescribes numerous, detailed solutions to these nagging problems, including a greater emphasis on rehabilitation in prison, increased judicial discretion with respect to sentencing, and a standardized system for training police officers in the use of deadly force. Some of his suggestions are not only familiar, but also widely practiced; for example, equipping police officers with cameras to encourage better behavior. But he also offers intriguingly novel ones, like establishing separate courts for urban, suburban, and rural areas and promoting a more sensitive, localized approach to law enforcement while neutralizing the prejudices upper-class citizens harbor about inner-city life. Some of his more controversial judgments could use more empirical substantiation; for example, Brakke claims that, with respect to the media, “liberal racial bias seems to target whites.” But the study is generally rigorous and evenhanded and makes an admirable effort, in plainly readable prose, to consider opposing sides on any given issue. His measured tone is especially notable when discussing particularly contentious topics like the police use of stop-and-identify to canvass for criminal suspects.

A thorough and innovative look at a burgeoning national problem.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947466-34-0

Page Count: 142

Publisher: American Leadership Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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