The New Jim Crow Review

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[Pictured is a paperback copy of the New Jim Crow on a wooden shelf in front of an off-white wall]

Title: The New Jim Crow Author: Michelle Alexander Rating: 4/5 ⭐ Genre: Nonfiction/Legal/Social JusticeAge: Adult Format: Audiobook/Paperback Narrator: Karen Chilton

Some really awesome quotes from the book:

I had an [assistant U.S. attorney who] wanted to drop the gun charge against the defendant [in a case in which] there were no extenuating circumstances. I asked, “Why do you want to drop the gun offense?” And he said, “He’s a rural guy and grew up on a farm. The gun he had with him was a rifle. He’s a good ol’ boy, and all good ol’ boys have rifles, and it’s not like he was a gun-toting drug dealer.” But he was a gun-toting drug dealer, exactly. Page 118.
When someone is convicted of a crime today, their “debt to society” is never paid. Page 163.
Public defender offices should be funded at the same levels as prosecutor’s offices to eliminate the unfair advantage afforded the incarceration machine. Page 233.
We should hope not for a colorblind society but instead for a world in which we can see each other fully, learn from each other, and do what we can to respond to each other with love. That was King’s dream- a society that is capable of seeing each of us, as we are, with love. That is a goal worth fighting for. Page 244.

Let’s be honest, I just love the public defender quote because I am, in fact, a public defender so the disparities in funding are a particular source of frustration for me.  This book was eye-opening and really frustrating but, in a lot of ways, it had a hopeful message which I really appreciated. We’ve taken down these systems before and we can do it again. But permanently this time!  I was bored by some of the discussion on case law because I learned it in law school but it’s probably necessary for most readers. I think she explains some really complicated cases in a fair way that any person will be able to comprehend. Even though I knew a lot of the laws and cases involved, I also definitely learned a lot that I should have been taught in school (law school or college or high school or somewhere!).  I will also say that, at times, sections of the book felt repetitive. However, overall it was a fantastic book that I think should be taught in schools. It felt balanced and was very well-researched. So worth reading! I’m definitely going to by a copy for my shelf at work (I bought the audiobook and borrowed the paperback from the library). I really need to start building a work library.

Any suggestions for books you think every public defender should have a copy of?

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