Law & Policy Law & Society book recommendations
October 18, 2010 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Your best recommendations for well-researched, well-argued books addressing issues of poverty, sentencing, crime and drug policy in the U.S. in the last ten years? Mass market or academic press are fine.

I've got a small library of public interest group reports and publications, but I'm looking for stuff that's a little more engaging to read. It's a pretty broad question, I realize, but I'm in the middle of a project at work concerning drug courts in Cook County, Illinois and I'm looking to broaden my general base of knowledge. Also, it's just fascinating.
posted by crush-onastick to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You may enjoy Urban Injustice, How Ghettos Happen.
posted by hermitosis at 7:37 AM on October 18, 2010

Terrific: Adrian Nicole Leblanc's Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx doesn't argue for or against anything, but provides a street level window into the things you mention. Relationships, strong/weak family ties, the pull of the neighbourhood, and influences on kids are especially emphasized. The author originally met the people in the book at drug court, events in the book took place over the 80s-90s, book was published in 2004.

Also Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets.

You may also be interested in Philippe Bourgois' work. He is a fantastic live speaker and recently published Righteous Dopefiend. Also possibly In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio (not quite as engaging as Leblanc or SV).
posted by tangaroo at 8:37 AM on October 18, 2010

Check out American Dream and Off the Books. They're both more about urban poverty than crime and sentencing as such, but crime and more general illicit behavior is an important part of the facts of life for the subjects of the books.
posted by Clambone at 9:29 AM on October 18, 2010

Strongly seconding Random Family. The Corner, by Mefi faves David Simon and Ed Burns, is worth checking out, too.
posted by box at 9:31 AM on October 18, 2010

I'm currently reading Lies
    My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
by James W. Loewen which, while it does quote heavily on what modern textbooks teach incorrectly, also provides a very extensive historical basis as to why poverty, and a fair bit of crime, started in the United States in the first place among African-American populations. Many references are included.

And an unread recommendation from the same author - which if this book is any indication, that title should be well worth reading -
    Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism
. Again, there are books that cover "current studies on..." and then there are books that cover how this ever came about. I'm recommending the latter.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:07 PM on October 18, 2010

Apologies for the weird editing the green seemed to impose. That first book was:
Lies My Teacher Told Me, etc etc.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:08 PM on October 18, 2010

Courtroom 302 is very engaging and it even focuses on Cook County.
posted by ewiar at 5:37 PM on October 18, 2010

Response by poster: I've read Courtroom 302 (it's really good). I've also got: Race to Incarcerate by Marc Mauer and Unanticipated Gains by Mario Luis Small on the list.

Thanks for the suggestions so far. I hope more folks chime in.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:10 PM on October 18, 2010

The two I recommend a lot on here are:

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, by Gabor Mate.

My organization has a report on drug courts coming out at some point soon. I'll send you the link when it does.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:09 PM on October 19, 2010

Oh, and Drug Crazy by Mike Grey
posted by gingerbeer at 12:09 PM on October 19, 2010

I would suggest some of the work by Malcolm M. Feeley, including the Process is the Punishment which might fit the bill, if a little old. See a note here and I already checked - all of his books are available at the Chicago Library.
posted by zenon at 9:27 PM on October 21, 2010

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