The Harvard Law School Library staff invite you to attend a book talk and discussion in celebration of James Forman, Jr.’s recently published book titled Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Apr. 18, 2017). James Forman, Jr. is a Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Copies of Locking Up Our Own will be available for sale and Professor Forman will be available for signing books at the end of the talk. This talk is co-sponsored by The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School and by the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School.
Thursday, April 13, 2017 at noon, with lunch
Harvard Law School WCC 2019 Milstein West A/B (Directions)
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
About James Forman, Jr.
James Forman Jr. is a Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He is a graduate of Atlanta’s Roosevelt High School, Brown University, and Yale Law School, and was a law clerk for Judge William Norris of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the United States Supreme Court.
After clerking, he joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., where for six years he represented both juveniles and adults charged with crimes.
During his time as a public defender, Professor Forman became frustrated with the lack of education and job training opportunities for his clients. So in 1997, along with David Domenici, he started the Maya Angelou Public Charter School, an alternative school for school dropouts and youth who had previously been arrested. A decade later, in 2007, Maya Angelou School expanded and agreed to run the school inside D.C.’s juvenile prison. That school, which had long been an abysmal failure, has been transformed under the leadership of the Maya Angelou staff; the court monitor overseeing D.C.’s juvenile system called the turnaround “extraordinary.”
Professor Forman taught at Georgetown Law from 2003 to 2011, when he joined the Yale faculty. At Yale, he teaches Constitutional Law, a seminar on Race and the Criminal Justice System, and a clinic called the Educational Opportunity and Juvenile Justice Clinic. In the clinic, Professor Forman and his students represent young people facing expulsion from school for discipline violations, and they work to keep their clients in school and on track towards graduation.
Professor Forman teaches and writes in the areas of criminal procedure and criminal law policy, constitutional law, juvenile justice, and education law and policy. His particular interests are schools, prisons, and police, and those institutions’ race and class dimensions.
More About Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America
“In recent years, America’s criminal justice system has become the subject of an increasingly urgent debate. Critics have assailed the rise of mass incarceration, emphasizing its disproportionate impact on people of color. As James Forman, Jr., points out, however, the war on crime that began in the 1970s was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers. In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand why.
Forman shows us that the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office amid a surge in crime and drug addiction. Many prominent black officials, including Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry and federal prosecutor Eric Holder, feared that the gains of the civil rights movement were being undermined by lawlessness—and thus embraced tough-on-crime measures, including longer sentences and aggressive police tactics. In the face of skyrocketing murder rates and the proliferation of open-air drug markets, they believed they had no choice. But the policies they adopted would have devastating consequences for residents of poor black neighborhoods.
A former D.C. public defender, Forman tells riveting stories of politicians, community activists, police officers, defendants, and crime victims. He writes with compassion about individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas—from the men and women he represented in court to officials struggling to respond to a public safety emergency. Locking Up Our Own enriches our understanding of why our society became so punitive and offers important lessons to anyone concerned about the future of race and the criminal justice system in this country.” — Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Criminal Justice Institute
Bruce Western, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy & Professor of Sociology, Harvard University
Reviews of Locking Up Our Own
“Locking Up Our Own is a pathbreaking examination of the ways that, over the past half century, African American policymakers, social justice activists, jurists, prosecutors, police officials, and ordinary folk have thought about and grappled with the administration of criminal justice. It is vivid, accessible, and full of illuminating insights. It is a brilliant distillation of deep research, disciplined thoughtfulness, and moral passion. In ongoing discussions about crime and justice in America, particularly its racial dimensions, no book will be more essential than Locking Up Our Own.” — Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of For Discrimination and Race, Crime, and the Law
“The big spring book to argue about . . . Forman can catalogue more dysfunctional systems at close range than The Wire did.” — Boris Kachka, Vulture
“A sharp analysis . . . Forman shows how our nation has gotten to the point where so many citizens—primarily blacks—are imprisoned . . . Writing with authority and compassion, the author tells many vivid stories of the human toll taken by harsh criminal justice policies. He also asks provocative questions . . . Certain to stir debate, this book offers an important new perspective on the ongoing proliferation of America’s ‘punishment binge.'” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“James Forman Jr. masterfully explores why so many African Americans supported tough criminal laws over the past fifty years, and why, more recently, their attitudes began to shift. Combining dramatic stories from his work as a public defender with original historical research, Forman uncovers mass incarceration’s hidden history while documenting its human cost. Beautifully written, powerfully argued, and, most of all, deeply empathetic, Locking Up Our Own should be read by everybody who cares about race and justice in America.” — Van Jones, author of The Green-Collar Economy and Rebuild the Dream
“An absolutely essential read for anyone who wants to understand the politics of crime, race, and incarceration.”— Chris Hayes, host of All In with Chris Hayes and author of A Colony in a Nation
“Locking Up Our Own is an engaging, insightful, and provocative reexamination of over-incarceration in the black community. James Forman Jr. carefully exposes the complexities of crime, criminal justice, and race. What he illuminates should not be ignored.” — Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative
“James Forman Jr.’s frank and necessary history rings with the authentic voices of black Americans. By paying close attention to local conditions, he shows how well-meaning reforms snowballed into steadily harsher criminal justice policies in Washington, D.C. This is a very valuable and fascinating book—highly readable, engaging, and resolutely accurate about the urban realities it depicts. I recognized this world.” — Jill Leovy, author of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America
“Forman’s compassionate narrative interweaves the complexities of racial and class dynamics, especially in how African-American political officials, police chiefs, judges and prosecutors came to support the punitive policies that now ravage poor communities of color more than anyone else . . . [Locking Up Our Own] should become required reading for students, citizens, activists and policy reformers interested in excavating how our system of hyper-incarceration was constructed incrementally over decades.” — Alex Mikulich, America
“James Forman Jr. tells the fascinating story of mass incarceration from the ground up. We see the heartbreaking stories of young people whose life prospects are diminished through tough-on-crime policies, the leaders in the black community whose limited choices led to support for harsh punishments, and the ways in which the legacy of racism still frames outcomes in the twenty-first century. Locking Up Our Own helps us to understand how the prison population exploded and what we need to do to create a more compassionate approach to crime and justice.” — Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project and author of Race to Incarcerate