Yale Law Professor James Forman won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for his courageous and remarkably insightful book, Locking Up Our Own, in which he reflected on his experience as a public defender in Washington, DC in the 1990s. Many of James’ clients were young Black men getting arrested and often locked up for drug offenses and other drug-related crimes. He saw himself engaged in the unfinished work of the civil rights movement and needed to understand why so many Black citizens and even political leaders viewed the drug war as essential to the survival of their community.
We talked in depth about the simultaneous over- and under-policing of crime, and the ways in which mass incarceration results from small, distinct steps taken mostly at the local level. It’s a testament to the nuance he brings to his book that it was cited by both Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor in a recent Supreme Court case.
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