Usual Cruelty: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Criminal Injustice System

New Pr.. Oct. 2019. 208p. notes. ISBN 9781620975275. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781620975282. LAW
The U.S. criminal justice system is flawed, contends former public defender and founder of the Civil Rights Corps Karakatsanis, who presents this brief volume of his experiences working in the system. Three main chapters convey the themes: “The Punishment Bureaucracy,” “The Human Lawyer,” and “Policing, Mass Imprisonment, and the Failure of American Lawyers.” Essentially, Karakatsanis offers a radical indictment of a failed system that many people would rather not think about—especially given the government’s efforts to retain and keep expanding it. Despite occasional repetitiveness and a somewhat self-righteous tone, the author comes across as wanting to help those unfairly treated—people of color and those experiencing poverty. His conclusions substantiate the empirical findings of Alexandra Natapoff’s Punishment Without Crime, making this a nice companion volume.
VERDICT This readable overview of issues within the criminal justice system will appeal to political science, criminal justice, and legal scholars and students, as well as anyone wanting to learn more about its inner workings.

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