LAW & CRIME

Radical Acts of Justice: How Ordinary People Are Dismantling Mass Incarceration

New Pr Aug. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781620977446. $27.99. LAW
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Simonson (Brooklyn Law Sch.) offers a well-written survey of groups pushing for change in the criminal justice system. Drawing on five years as a public defender in the Bronx and from extensive interviews, Simonson decries mass incarceration of people of color as a means of control. The book presents several ways in which social action groups have worked to reform the system. For example, the Community Bail Fund posts bail for strangers accused of a crime to blunt the effects of pretrial incarceration and helps restore their lives. The groups involved in participatory defense present a defendant’s full story to the court and public. To break the prison pipeline, the People’s Budget redirects funds from the criminal justice system to neglected neighborhoods. Courtroom watching is another way for the public to understand, document, and disassemble harmful court practices. The author argues that prosecutors shouldn’t be able to call themselves “the People”; the real People are the communities harmed by mass incarceration. Simonson proposes a replacement for incarceration: provide housing, health care, and other support to people of color and poor people.
VERDICT Criminal-reform advocates will enjoy this primer.
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