Good books to read Part IV

Part I

Part II

Part III

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic — Sam Quinones

  • In this book Quinones helps readers understand how the opiate epidemic spawned heroin addiction across the country. More than half a million Americans are addicted to heroin, and many of users’ addictions can be traced to opiate prescriptions like OxyContin. The book provides a condemnation of the role of Big Pharma in mainstreaming and normalizing the use of opiate pills. OxyContin was framed as a risk-free wonder drug by salespersons and doctors, but the reality has proven to be far more sinister in nature. Quinones also examines the sprawling black tar heroin trafficking rings that trace back to small villages in Mexico. Heroin crosses the border and is delivered on demand to pill addicts in midsize cities and suburbs across the country. The addiction crisis has grown in places many wouldn’t initially expect, namely Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. The drug trade and addiction crisis has had significant ripple effects on the criminal justice system and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. A must read for anyone concerned about the growing Opiate crisis in America.

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces — Radley Balko

  • Balko relies on history to launch a spirited critique of domestic policing that mirrors warfare tactics more than communal supervision. The colonial days taught the Founders that soldiers in the streets beget conflict and tyranny, so in turn there was a focused effort to keep the military out of law enforcement. When we fast forward to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s however, it seems this lesson was lost on politicians. When rampant instances of police brutality provoked race riots, the coordinated responses from law enforcement agencies was the creation of SWAT units. Balko also points a critical finger at the role of the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty, Clinton’s COPS program, and the post 9-11 security State under Bush and Obama, as expanding and empowering police forces at the expense of civil liberties. Balko concludes his book with suggestions for sensible reform efforts; treating drug addiction with rehabilitation, not policing, drastically scaling back the use of SWAT units, and emphasizing transparency to change the police culture. This book provides readers with a historical overview of how American policing came to be the unrelenting force that it is today.

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice — Adam Benforado

  • Benforado takes readers on a journey to unearth the fundamental inequalities on which our criminal justice system is based. Many of us uncritically accept the notion that the law is impartial, but this book tosses that premise out of the window by illustrating that our system is based on injustice. Instead of arguing that the system is broken, Benforado convincingly demonstrates that the system is operating just as it was designed to by targeting undesirable defendants for extra punishment that goes far beyond constitutional blocks on arbitrary and capricious treatment. Benforado also dives into the psychological underpinnings of the criminal justice system to show the enduring role of implicit bias in the criminal justice system. Defendants with certain facial features are more likely to receive longer sentences. Judges are more likely to grant parole early in the morning.  The undeniable conclusion from this powerful book is that the roots of injustice don’t lie in the hearts of racist police officers or malicious prosecutors, but rather in the minds of all of us in society.

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy — Heather Ann Thompson

  • The Attica prison riot is one of the most notorious prison uprisings in global history. The true events of the saga were shrouded in mystery, but Thompson has sifted through it all to provide readers with a grueling re-telling of the events. Nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protests years of mistreatment on September 9, 1971. After four days of negotiations while holding guards and employees hostage, the state suddenly sent hundreds of heavily armed officers to retake the prison by force. Thirty-nine men were killed in the ensuing gunfire (including nine hostages killed by friendly fire), and over one hundred were severely wounded. Following the uprising prison conditions rapidly deteriorated for inmates as they were brutally retaliated against on site and in the courtroom. The Governor at the time, Rockefeller, refused to come meet the prisoners during negotiations, and plainly lied to the media that the prisoners had slashed the hostages’ throats. This vivid account of the events at Attica allows the reader to travel back in time and experience the hysteria from the inside, and the attempt at controlled responses on the outside.

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison — Shaka Senghor

  • Shaka Senghor bears his soul for readers in a gripping account of his life events that led to his incarceration, and his attempts at making amends in his post-incarceration life. Senghor was raised in Detroit’s east side during the height of the crack epidemic of the 1980’s. A good student with hopes of becoming a doctor, Senghor’s life took an unpredictable turn after his parents’ divorce. He ran away from home, turned to drug dealing to get by, and ended up in prison for murder at the age of 19. Battling his anger and despair during his nineteen year incarceration, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement, Senghor discovered literature and the value of human kindness. He learned tools to battle his demons by accepting accountability for his actions and forgiving all those who hurt him growing up. After his release at age thirty-eight, Senghor became a mentor and activist helping young men and women avoid the life path he went down. Writing My Wrongs is a portrait of life in the American ghetto and teaches us that our worst deeds don’t define us as a whole.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform — Catherine Y. Kim

  • Increasing attention to the school-to-prison pipeline has animated responses to confronting the issue on the front line. Kim’s book attacks the narrative of at-risk youth — particularly children of color — that pushes students out of the classroom and into the juvenile justice system. The entry points to this pipeline are myriad; underfunded and under-resourced K-12 public schools, the increasing reliance on zero-tolerance disciplinary actions, and the emergence of police in schools, to name a few. The intersection of these practices threatens to prepare an entire generation of children for future incarceration. This comprehensive work attempts to study the relationship between the law at each entry point of the pipeline. By proposing legal theories and remedies to challenge the existing entry points, this book offers the hope of structuring meaningful legal reform.

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