Related Reading: Policing the Planet – Policing and the Criminal Justice System

Earlier this week I posted my thoughts on Policing the Planet edited by Jordan T Camp and Christina Heatherton. Are you looking for more books on similar topics? Check out these other great titles (links lead to old reviews):

Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen by David Hilfiker – An examination of how economics, policies, and racism created and shaped inner city ghettos. (FIVE STARS)

It is also true, however, that we tend to punish the kinds of crimes committed by the poor more severely than similar ones committed by affluent people. Compare, for example, shoplifting and “fudging” on an expense account. Each is a nonviolent crime against business. Since neither source of income is usually reported to the Internal Revenue Service, each is a federal crime. Yet the shoplifter is much more likely to be prosecuted than the executive manipulating his expense account.

Rape New York by Jana Leo – Leo examines development policies and crime especially as it intersects with her own rape. (FIVE STARS)

Introducing crime into an area is part of a crude development strategy. The more sophisticated and perverse approach is to simultaneously clamp down on street crime while forcing it into specific buildings targeted for speculation. Containing crime in specific buildings reduces their value so developers can purchase them inexpensively.

Unruly Women: The Politics of Confinement and Resistance by Karlene Faith – A look at women in the justice system (in Canada!) and the ways in which the justice system is but the latest in a long line of efforts which have been used to keep women in their places. (FIVE STARS)

The continuum, then, does not follow deterministically from victimization to criminalization. Rather, social victims en masse serve as the very large pool from which the anomalous woman, who sells sex, steals or hurts people and gets caught, is a candidate for prosecution. These unruly masses are the target of criminal justice as well as the target of other dominant regulatory institutions in bureaucratized societies. The continuum from victimization to criminalization is arbitrarily drawn according to power relations as constructed through racially divided and class-based social structures, in tandem with the authority of law and other dominant discourses such as medicine, social sciences and welfare, which all serve selective law enforcement practices.

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis – One of (if not the) first book I read on the US prison industrial complex. Davis discusses the history of prisons in the US as well as the criminalization of groups and communities which has led to the current state. She ends by providing options and alternatives. (More on Angela Davis coming in a post at some point in the near future.)

Thus, if we are willing to take seriously the consequences of a racist and class-biased justice system, we will reach the conclusion that enormous numbers of people are in prison simply because they are, for example, black, Chicano, Vietnamese, Native American or poor, regardless of their ethnic background. They are sent to prison, not so much because of the crimes they may have indeed committed, but largely because their communities have been criminalized. Thus, programs for decriminalization will not only have to address specific activities that have been criminalized – such as drug use and sex work – but also criminalized populations and communities.

More great reads that I haven’t reviewed but which provide more context and history on policing or the justice system:

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander – a history of racial injustices and how they are a continuation of Jim Crow systems of justice. (FIVE STARS)
  • The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Radley Balko – a history of how we got to the current state of the militarized police force and the results of this on how they interact with those they are supposed to protect and serve.
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson – memoir by a lawyer who works with the wrongfully convicted, children, domestic abuse survivors, and others. It discusses the injustices built into the justice system.
  • Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado – Benforado is fully on the reform bandwagon, but in this book he does a great job of examining many issues (biases and injustices) built in to the current justice system.
  • Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted by Ian Millhiser – an examination of the Supreme Court since the Civil War that shows how the rulings go more often against justice, despite a few recent historic rulings.
  • Racial Reckoning: Prosecuting America’s Civil Rights Murders by Renee C. Romano – while this book isn’t as related, it is still interesting and I make the case that it provides a great lens through which to view the police and the justice system. Through examinations of the more recent prosecutions of civil rights atrocities we see the limitations of the justice system.

Have you read any great books on policing or the justice system that my list is missing? Please let me know so that I can search them out!

12 thoughts on “Related Reading: Policing the Planet – Policing and the Criminal Justice System

  1. Joy Weese Moll

    Great list — thanks! The New Jim Crow was a game-changer and Just Mercy had such an impact, too. Pushout, unexpectedly, had a lot about this topic and how it impacts black girls (always a forgotten group).

    A big chunk of the activism community in St. Louis is ramping up focus on School Resource Officers — right at the intersection between police and schools.

    1. amckiereads Post author

      Pushout is definitely on my list now thanks to you, Joy! What a great topic for the activism community to focus on – sadly we have them here in Toronto as well, so I clearly need to read up more. Any other suggestions of where to read up?

  2. Bina

    Great list, Amy! I have Policing the Planet on my tbr, have only read the intro so far, but hopefully I’ll get it read this month. Still need to read Davis’ Are Prison, only read excerpts, as usual Like the book about the PIC in Canada! Off to check these books! And glad you’re back to blogging (for a bit or longer)!

    1. amckiereads Post author

      Thanks Bina 🙂 We’ll see how long it lasts…. I figure I won’t be posting as often so perhaps I’ll be able to keep it up! The great thing about Davis’ Are Prisons is that it is a very short and thus very quick read, so that helps!! I hope you get a chance to dip into Policing the Planet, it really was incredible 🙂

  3. Laura

    Unfair is one of the Silicon Valley Reads books for this year, and I’m reading it now. I’m finding it interesting and convincing.

    The other SVR book, on a related topic, is Writing my Wrongs by Shaka Senghor. It’s described as “the true story of a man who went from being a convicted murderer, serving 19 years in prison, to becoming a leading voice for criminal justice reform and an inspiration to thousands.” I’m looking forward to reading it as well.

    I’m also about halfway through The New Jim Crow, but I had to step away. It’s extremely compelling and disturbing (and yes, I’m very aware of my privilege that allows me to pull back. That isn’t an option for far to many Americans).

    1. amckiereads Post author

      Writing my Wrongs sounds really interesting Laura, thanks for the recommendation! And I hope you enjoy Unfair. So interesting. You are right, The New Jim Crow was a very difficult read. Even getting through some of it is something though, and so many other books to read as well! 🙂

    1. amckiereads Post author

      Ooooh yes, Men We Reaped is fantastic Lisa, I agree! Have you read The Fire This Time, Jesmyn’s latest?


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