Criminal Justice and the Mattering of Lives
22 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2017 Last revised: 7 Mar 2019
Date Written: October 27, 2017
James Forman Jr.'s "Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America" is an extraordinary book, and it arrives at a pivotal juncture for criminal justice reform. This Essay builds on Forman's rendition of "a central paradox of the African American experience: the simultaneous over- and under-policing of crime." It describes three areas in which legally marginalized groups currently struggle for state recognition of their injuries: gun violence, sexual violence, and hate crimes. It then offers a conceptual framework for future reform efforts that, by centering structural inequality, aspires to concurrently rectify the over- and under-enforcement of crime highlighted by Forman's careful work. I refer to this inversion of the traditional criminal justice paradigm as an anti-subordination approach to criminal justice — one that makes salient the interplay between crime and entrenched social inequalities while pressing for a state response that alleviates, rather than exacerbates, the disempowerment of vulnerable populations.
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