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

Alec Karakatsanis. New Press, $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-62097-527-5
Former public defender Karakatsanis debuts with a fiery indictment of America’s criminal justice system and what he contends is the “basic truth” underlying it: “The powerful have used the law to dominate the powerless.” In three essays, Karakatsanis attacks modern policing methods, mass incarceration, and the money bail system; challenges lawyers to fight against the “punishment bureaucracy” that victimizes the poor and protects the rich; and spotlights cases in which he sees the routine application of the law as violating the norms of human decency. In one such instance, an Alabama mother was ordered to stay in jail until she paid off her old traffic tickets at the rate of $50 per day, or $75 if she cleaned the courthouse bathrooms. Defining incarceration as “human caging,” Karakatsanis argues that there is “no serious evidence” that imprisonment reduces crime rates. He points out that while it’s illegal in most American cities to bet on a dice game, stock market traders earn fortunes for doing essentially the same thing. To correct such imbalances, Karakatsanis calls for “massive collective action” on the part of lawyers to vindicate their clients’ constitutional rights. This provocative cri de coeur will challenge readers’ fundamental conceptions of the rule of law. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/30/2019
Release date: 10/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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