Charged
A renowned investigative journalist exposes the unchecked power of the prosecutor as a driving force in America's mass incarceration crisis, and also offers a way out.The American criminal justice system is supposed to be a contest between two equal adversaries, the prosecution and the defense, with judges ensuring a fair fight. But in practice, it is prosecutors who have the upper hand, in a contest that is far from equal. More than anyone else, prosecutors decide who goes free and who goes to prison, and even who lives and who dies. The system wasn't designed for this kind of unchecked power, and in Charged, Emily Bazelon shows that it is an underreported cause of enormous injustice--and the missing piece in the mass incarceration puzzle.But that's only half the story. Prosecution in America is at a crossroads. The power of prosecutors makes them the actors in the system--the only actors--who can fix what's broken without changing a single law. They can end mass incarceration, protect against coercive plea bargains and convicting the innocent, and tackle racial bias. And because in almost every state we, the people, elect prosecutors, it is within our power to reshape the choices they make. In the last few years, for the first time in American history, a wave of reform-minded prosecutors has taken office in major cities throughout the country. Bazelon follows them, showing the difference they make for people caught in the system and how they are coming together as a new kind of lobby for justice and mercy.In Charged, Emily Bazelon mounts a major critique of the American criminal justice system--and also offers a way out.

Charged Details

TitleCharged
Author
ReleaseApr 16th, 2019
PublisherRandom House
ISBN-139780399590016
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Politics, Law, Social Movements, Social Justice, Mystery, Crime

Charged Review

  • Paula DeBoard
    January 1, 1970
    Add CHARGED to your criminal justice reform reading list, along with The New Jim Crow and Just Mercy (... and what else? Comment with suggestions for me).There's a lot to unpack here, but Bazelon takes a look at a particular piece of a justice system that is leading to mass incarceration in unsustainable numbers: the role of prosecutors. Using two very different cases as a narrative thread, Bazelon exposes the reader to a system where winning (not compromise, not restitution, and not justice) is Add CHARGED to your criminal justice reform reading list, along with The New Jim Crow and Just Mercy (... and what else? Comment with suggestions for me).There's a lot to unpack here, but Bazelon takes a look at a particular piece of a justice system that is leading to mass incarceration in unsustainable numbers: the role of prosecutors. Using two very different cases as a narrative thread, Bazelon exposes the reader to a system where winning (not compromise, not restitution, and not justice) is rewarded through promotion and re-election. There's some damning evidence that mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes do little more than create future criminals, and also a hopeful look at prison alternatives currently being piloted. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
    more
  • David Wineberg
    January 1, 1970
    Americans like to think their criminal justice system is the fairest in the world, that innocents can’t be proven guilty because of all the constitutional protections in the system. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Emily Bazelon found in Charged. Her latest book looks at the justice system at the prosecutor level. It is a family tree of branches, many of them diseased or rotten. Both prosecutors and defendants can find themselves on the wrong one at any time. It’s a fascinating tour, Americans like to think their criminal justice system is the fairest in the world, that innocents can’t be proven guilty because of all the constitutional protections in the system. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Emily Bazelon found in Charged. Her latest book looks at the justice system at the prosecutor level. It is a family tree of branches, many of them diseased or rotten. Both prosecutors and defendants can find themselves on the wrong one at any time. It’s a fascinating tour, aided by Bazelon’s intimate knowledge, involvement and exhaustive contacts.Bazelon details two tormented cases, of a gun possession in Brooklyn and a murder in Memphis, to help readers live the blind maze that might or might not lead to justice, years after the facts. In between, she describes the offices, officers and environment that the justice system operates in. She finds it not just faulty, but working against its own best interests, the interests of the accused, and the interests of the public. She quotes Erin Murphy, an NYU Law Professor: “We don’t have strong citizen oversight of police, it is highly politicized work, and civil remedies have been totally neutered.” States have been abandoning diversions, education, retraining and supervision in favor of more and longer sentences. The United States now holds 2.2 million in jail, one quarter of those held in the whole world. In addition, there are nearly five million on parole or control of some sort. It is a nation of criminals, apparently. That is not only costly, but hopelessly unworkable. In numerous field trials, those alternatives show themselves to be less expensive and lead to less recidivism than locking people up for the slightest infraction. A good half a million are in jail just because they couldn’t pay the fine or make bail. To Bazelon, this sort of debtors’ prison alone costs the country $25 million a day. It’s the system that needs reforming as much as the accused. There is a special place hell for plea bargaining in Charged. It is a weapon wielded by prosecutors, who threaten sentences three times as long if the accused prefers to take a chance in court. As Judge Jed Rakoff wrote: “In 2012, the average sentence for federal narcotics defendants who entered any kind of plea bargain was five years and four months, while the average sentence for defendants who went to trial was sixteen years.” After months or years of waiting, most cave – 95% of criminal cases end in a plea-bargain. It wouldn’t be so bad if so many weren’t innocent, or if prosecutors didn’t withhold evidence, or if police didn’t lie (testilying ,they call it) or deny the accused their rights. “Once you get used to it, you don’t even notice the injustice,“ Albert Altschuler, University of Chicago law professor says of plea-bargaining. Power has shifted to the prosecutors, as judges are now restricted to formularies. Prosecutors forced to go to trial go for crimes with the longest sentences. Judges are forced to go along. This adds greatly to the power of the plea-bargain. Asked in court if they chose the plea voluntarily, all defendants commit perjury by saying yes. Charged ends powerfully with 21 reasonable, doable recommendations to fix the system. They are listed with clarifications and variations, and then with places where they have been successfully implemented. Because it’s not all bad news. There are innovative, reformers in many jurisdictions, notably Houston, Brooklyn and Philadelphia.1. Make diversion the rule2. Charge with restraint and plea-bargain fairly3. Move toward ending cash bail4. Encourage the treatment (not criminalization) of mental illness5. Encourage the treatment (not criminalization) of drug addiction6. Treat kids like kids7. Minimize misdemeanors8. Account for consequences to immigrants9. Promote restorative justice10. Shrink probation and parole11. Change office culture and practice12. Address racial disparity13. Create effective conviction review14. Broaden discovery15. Hold police accountable16. End the poverty trap of fines and fees17. Expunge and seal criminal records18. Play fair with forensic evidence19. Work to end the death penalty20. Calculate cost21. Employ the language of respectThe problem that Bazelon does not venture into is the near anarchy of the entire system. Rights are spelled out at the federal level, but prosecutors work at the county level. Every county has its own policies and methods. There is no consistency or predictability for someone accused of anything. They never know what they’re up against, until they’re in the vortex. Americans don’t have the same rights from one county to the next.Possibly worse is that in the USA, prosecutors and district attorneys tend to be elected, not appointed by a commission of judges, who might know their performance records and honesty. The result is the politicization of justice, as people vote along party lines, not fairness, justice or efficiency. Counties get omnipotent little potentates, who run their departments as they alone see fit, often for their own glory. Nothing says re-elected like a lot people behind bars.Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor showed she understood in Utah v Strieff: “It says that your body is subject to invasion while the courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy, but the subject of a carcereal state, just waiting to be catalogued. We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by the police are ‘isolated’. They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.” She said the criminal justice system “accomplishes nothing we think of as its purpose. We think we’re keeping people safe. We’re just making worse criminals.”David Wineberg
    more
  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    Disclaimer: ARC via the publisher and Netgalley. The last time I did my civic duty of jury duty it was either the day after or day that Larry Krasner fired several lawyers for the DA’s office. It was an interesting day. I’m not sure why they didn’t just cancel us coming in. I tell you this so you know that I live in one of the cities that Bazelon writes about in her new book. According to the studies that Bazelon cites in her book, most Americans agree that the justice system needs to be reforme Disclaimer: ARC via the publisher and Netgalley. The last time I did my civic duty of jury duty it was either the day after or day that Larry Krasner fired several lawyers for the DA’s office. It was an interesting day. I’m not sure why they didn’t just cancel us coming in. I tell you this so you know that I live in one of the cities that Bazelon writes about in her new book. According to the studies that Bazelon cites in her book, most Americans agree that the justice system needs to be reformed and that in many cases the penalties are too harsh. True, there are some people, like one of my co-workers, who believe people like Krasner haven’t been victims of crime so they don’t care about punishment. But as someone who has lived in a city with harsh penalties, they don’t seem to work that well. Bazelon makes an excellent and good case as to why this is as well as detailing how the country got to this point. Her book follows two people who are caught in justice in different parts of the country. There is Noura who is accused of murdering her mother, and Keith who is charged with an illegally holding a gun. Noura is white, from Memphis, and her family, well not rich, is not poor. Keith is from NYC, black, and his family is struggling finically. Both are close in age – not having graduated high school when the book opens. Both are basically innocent. In some ways, Keith is a little luckier because NYC has/had programs that could help him and the idea of punishment was changing. This is not to say that his race, economic background, and neighborhood did not play a role in his charge and his subsequent interaction with police and the system. It is though Keith that Bazelon illustrates the cost to the average person when it comes to the justice system. It isn’t just the charge, but the time that is put on hold, the missed wages, the struggle to move forward on a good path when everything seems to be or is out to get you. Chances are that if you live in a big urban area, you know someone like Keith. Noura’s case is different and illustrates what happens when a prosecutor doesn’t play by the rules and abuses power. (Noura’s case was also first reported on Bazelon for the New York Times). She is charged and eventually found guilty of murdering her mother. She spends years in jail. You might not know someone like Noura, but Noura’s case also illustrates how power can be horribly abused, and her friendships in prison illustrate, as Noura herself points out, that she is hardly alone in suffering a miscarriage of justice; she just has the benefit of being white. What is also important is that the long-lasting effects of being charged are shown. It isn’t just the time and money that is loss, but the emotional and mental damage as well. Bazelon does directly tackle how race plays into what happens. The stories of Keith and Noura also lead to discussions with DA’s, defense lawyers, judges, and activists, some good, some bad – some pushing for change, some frustrated because their hands are tied. The book isn’t anti cop or anti-justice – it is pro-humanity. Reading this right after finishing The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist is enough to make you want to go around smacking people. Thankfully, Bazelon includes a step by step proposal for reforming the justice system, including what people who read her book can do. Not only is the planned sketched out but she also provides cited examples of each step workingHighly recommended.
    more
  • Darcia Helle
    January 1, 1970
    The American criminal justice system is a mess. This really is an indisputable fact. For nearly a half century we've been fighting a War on Drugs, which has only succeeded in putting more drugs on the streets. We run prisons for profit, filling them with young black males and people too poor to afford bail and/or attorneys. We run a barter system with plea bargains, rather than a justice system with trials by jury. Nothing about what we do is fair.With 'Charged', Emily Bazelon highlights the job The American criminal justice system is a mess. This really is an indisputable fact. For nearly a half century we've been fighting a War on Drugs, which has only succeeded in putting more drugs on the streets. We run prisons for profit, filling them with young black males and people too poor to afford bail and/or attorneys. We run a barter system with plea bargains, rather than a justice system with trials by jury. Nothing about what we do is fair.With 'Charged', Emily Bazelon highlights the job of prosecutors, showing us exactly how much power and control they wield over the system and the people caught within it. She lays out this narrative with a focus on two young people; one whose life is destroyed by an uncaring, unjust system, and the other who benefits immensely from the compassion of a different kind of system. We have the ability to wield both types of power, so why are we so quick to destroy?This book is disturbing, because it should be. But Bazelon also shows us glimmers of hope. In various pockets of our country, justice is becoming a reality rather than a farce. Through these stories, Bazelon shows us that compassion and justice can, in fact, go hand-in-hand. The reality of our system is nothing like an episode of Law & Order. Money, education, status, race, and religion all weigh heavily in how a person is treated, prosecuted, and punished. There is no such thing as equal rights within our criminal justice system, at least not yet. Maybe if enough people read this book, and enough people demand change, someday we can truly claim a "justice" system.*I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.*
    more
  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    I know very little about the criminal justice system, and throughout, I found myself overwhelmed with how it does and does not work. Bazelon, though, explains these systems well and showcases how it is the system is set up and how Prosecutors have taken on an increasingly powerful role in it. Told primarily through two very different cases -- one of a young black man in a rough area of Brooklyn and one of a middle class white girl from Memphis -- the power of the prosecutors are shown in how the I know very little about the criminal justice system, and throughout, I found myself overwhelmed with how it does and does not work. Bazelon, though, explains these systems well and showcases how it is the system is set up and how Prosecutors have taken on an increasingly powerful role in it. Told primarily through two very different cases -- one of a young black man in a rough area of Brooklyn and one of a middle class white girl from Memphis -- the power of the prosecutors are shown in how they can force plea bargains which ultimately hurt the accused and set them up to be in a lose-lose situation, even if they aren't found guilty. I had a vague idea how mass incarceration looked, but this was an eye opener in how it really works...and how it becomes a political tool for prosecutors who use their "wins" in cases as fuel for reelection (in most states, they're elected). More to come.
    more
  • Christian Santos
    January 1, 1970
    It goes beyond adding a human voice to what so often gets labeled as “criminal”. It shows the distinction between political-action and translation into layers of judicial bureaucracy. As an individual that works in the judicial branch of local government, Bazelon has opened my perception on some of the rigmarole we do as law clerks. Even if you’re not a progressive; the true-crime pace this book reads at, provides valuable insight into our local courts.
    more
  • Bettie☯
    January 1, 1970
    Watch Atty. Gen. Barr choose Trump rhetoric over the law For a second day in a row, Atty. Gen. William Barr proved that he is working for President Trump over U.S. Law. Lawrence asks, if Barr carries Trump’s water on the wall, what’s he doing with the Mueller report? Neal Katyal, Emily Bazelon and John Heilemann join Lawrence O’Donnell.
    more
  • Serge
    January 1, 1970
    Compelling case for criminal justice reformThis is the best book that I have read all year. Years ago, I read Sticks and Stones and thought that Bazelon was among the most gifted writers of her generation. This book does not disappoint. Searing and bracing accounts of preventable injustice.
    more
  • Shelley
    January 1, 1970
    This is a hard book to read, but a necessary one. Our system is broken and there's not much political will to fix it. People are going to continue to suffer injustice--all I can say is my hat's off to my public defense bar colleagues. You're doing the work of the angels.
    more
  • Sally Kenney
    January 1, 1970
    Wish I could give it six stars. Reminds me of The Lost Children of Wilder. She mixes riveting personal stories with legal analysis and social science to make a compelling case for reform.
  • Sophie Rayton
    January 1, 1970
    A painfully important book. I had to go slowly with this because I couldn't handle the injustice for long stretches of time. Why do humans suck so much sometimes?! I'm glad this journalist is advocating for change and getting the message out there.
  • Ashley
    January 1, 1970
    Very persuasive argument on prosecutorial power and how the quickest path to ending mass incarceration is by changing the prosecutorial culture and limiting it's power.
  • Lissa
    January 1, 1970
    This book of investigative reporting looks at our judicial system and how the role of the prosecutor has increased over the years. Prosecutors have the power to withhold bail, increase charges and strong-arm defendants into plea deals. It is one of many problems within the U.S.'s criminal justice system but one that some reformed-minded district attorneys are attempting to fix. This is well written and researched and the author does a good job of laying out all of the issues. I think it is fair This book of investigative reporting looks at our judicial system and how the role of the prosecutor has increased over the years. Prosecutors have the power to withhold bail, increase charges and strong-arm defendants into plea deals. It is one of many problems within the U.S.'s criminal justice system but one that some reformed-minded district attorneys are attempting to fix. This is well written and researched and the author does a good job of laying out all of the issues. I think it is fair to say that the author takes a very clear stance on these cases and she portrays some definite bad guys but I can't help feeling that it was well deserved. I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Audrey
    January 1, 1970
    This is a timely and relevant read. Both Noura and Kevin were compelling people depicting the process and problems of the trial court system. I’m not sure who the target audience for this book is, whether it’s the lay person or the practitioner. It tries to do both and fall short. For the practitioner it humanizes with both Noura and Kevin went through but the history behind the system kind of dragged. The book picks up in the chapter about the new DAs.But with this book fails to address are two This is a timely and relevant read. Both Noura and Kevin were compelling people depicting the process and problems of the trial court system. I’m not sure who the target audience for this book is, whether it’s the lay person or the practitioner. It tries to do both and fall short. For the practitioner it humanizes with both Noura and Kevin went through but the history behind the system kind of dragged. The book picks up in the chapter about the new DAs.But with this book fails to address are two big issues. One, money and two, training. The book address is so many relevant problems with in the criminal justice system but doesn’t really address how these changes are going to be paid for. The district attorneys offices are subject to the budgets of the state for the specific counties. Training has to be across the board in all the prosecutors’ offices, starting from the top. Supervisors have to have additional knowledge and training since the line prosecutors will be seeking guidance. And, all this costs money that the legislature has to allocate to them. And, whatever training prosecutors have, defense attorneys (both public and private, need it as well. More money from government budgets. Which leads me to my second point. The book doesn’t take into account all humans subconscious biases that have been bombarding everyone from the beginning. Whether it’s from the media or from books or from the environment, everyone has them. Training is necessary and essential to make people aware of these biases and how to compensate for them. And just as important it is that of staff in these offices understand this is it systemic racism that has been prevalent in this country since it’s inception. And, it should really be a uniform level training that crosses state and federal lines. But, that would mean that there will be some kind of consensus. This book only really touches on biases that are inherent in human nature. The appendix is especially relevant to our prosecutors offices in the country. The question is how many officers are really serious about making change. I hope there is actually a follow-up done to this book to show the success and hopefully not failure of some of these new district attorneys who want to make a change within the criminal justice system. And of course a follow-up to both Noura’s and Kevin’s lives would be welcome.
    more
  • Christina
    January 1, 1970
    A journey through the prosecutor's ever-expanding role in the criminal justice system from start to finish, with detours into discussion about the progressive prosecutor movement that's started in several states (including mine!). For most of the book, Bazelon follows two young people through their engagement with the prosecution, from the initial charges to plea deals/imprisonment; by far these are the most interesting parts of the book, with Noura Jackson's story veering into true crime territ A journey through the prosecutor's ever-expanding role in the criminal justice system from start to finish, with detours into discussion about the progressive prosecutor movement that's started in several states (including mine!). For most of the book, Bazelon follows two young people through their engagement with the prosecution, from the initial charges to plea deals/imprisonment; by far these are the most interesting parts of the book, with Noura Jackson's story veering into true crime territory at times. Bazelon is a gifted writer who covers her subjects with empathy and writes about the legal system in an easy to digest style that any reader can understand regardless of background. As a non-lawyer, I found the parts of the book that went deep into precedent and backroom politics at the prosecuters' offices less interesting, but I felt that every part of this book was worth reading. I thought the author made a good effort to walk a fine line of respect for the work the prosecutors were doing, but her skepticism of law enforcement came through clearly. Not a criticism, as I share this skepticism, but something that may turn off some readers.I'll be interested to see what the reaction is when this book comes out, as the author leans strongly into the progressive prosecution model being necessary to reform our broken criminal justice system. While this movement is gaining popularity in some places, the rigid law and order bent of the current US AG's office and deeply entrenched practices of many prosecuters (like the terrible woman in TN who handled Noura Jackson's case) will be a challenge. I hope that this important book will get into the right hands to make a difference in the way people think about and execute criminal prosecution.
    more
  • Marta
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advance copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway."Charged" is a very interesting and eye-opening book about the power of prosecutors and their role in the criminal justice system. While I was familiar with the issue before, Bazelon does a very good job explaining the different issues and factors that play a role in prosecutors' power and lack of oversight. The book follows two individuals entangled in the criminal justice system and how prosecutorial discretion and mercy eith I received an advance copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway."Charged" is a very interesting and eye-opening book about the power of prosecutors and their role in the criminal justice system. While I was familiar with the issue before, Bazelon does a very good job explaining the different issues and factors that play a role in prosecutors' power and lack of oversight. The book follows two individuals entangled in the criminal justice system and how prosecutorial discretion and mercy either could potentially change, or actually does in fact change, their lives and futures. My only complaint about "Charged" is that it could be better organized and structured. Bazelon inserts interesting historical facts and explanations about issues such as bonds, elections, political campaigns, prosecutorial discretion, DNA exoneration cases, various Supreme Court decisions, etc. - but their placement seems arbitrary and interwoven with the stories in the book in a way that makes it very difficult to find a specific piece of information again once done reading the book. Overall, "Charged" is a must-read for anyone interested in the US criminal justice system, policy, and the epidemic of mass incarceration!
    more
  • Barbara Senteney
    January 1, 1970
    This book is crammed with example of what tactics the District Attorney's Office does and gets away with on a day to day basis. I have no idea how it is for the rest of the world, but here in America defendants get railroaded everyday. By over zealous, attorneys trying to climb the ladder to a better job. Sometimes they just turn a blind eye to others corruption, and the planting of evidence , or blatant les. Does that make them any less responsible then the ones who actually commit the illegal This book is crammed with example of what tactics the District Attorney's Office does and gets away with on a day to day basis. I have no idea how it is for the rest of the world, but here in America defendants get railroaded everyday. By over zealous, attorneys trying to climb the ladder to a better job. Sometimes they just turn a blind eye to others corruption, and the planting of evidence , or blatant les. Does that make them any less responsible then the ones who actually commit the illegal acts? This is way more then a story, it could be used as a teaching tool, on how not to be a corrupt attorney. Although I enjoyed this very much I did have a feeling of over thinking and rambling on. So I have no idea how the average reader will respond to it. I am an over thinker, but it's to me more a technical tool then a story for everyone.The opinions expressed are my own and are in no way influenced by anyone or anything other then the content I read.
    more
  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    Damning and yet still somehow hopeful. The story of Noura Jackson, wrongly convicted by an unethical Tennessee prosecutor who was protected from consequence by a political influence and utter shamelessness, is more sensational. But probably more important is the story of the pseudononymous Kevin, a young black man arrested with a gun whose tangle with the system somehow doesn’t ruin his life.
    more
  • Ang
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent example of nonfiction that is aimed at the general public--and achieves its aims. It's narrative (we follow two people through the justice system), but also packed full of history (important court cases that affect the justice system) and facts and figures. I want to say it's persuasive, but truthfully, I didn't need persuading. Highly, highly recommended.
    more
  • Brian Hart
    January 1, 1970
    If you think our criminal justice system needs some retooling, this book is an excellent read detailing why it does and how it can be retooled. If you don't think our criminal justice system needs some retooling, this book is an excellent read detailing why you should rethink your position.
    more
  • James
    January 1, 1970
    A great exploration of the role of the prosecutor in the criminal justice system and the movement to shift that system towards greater justice. Very well researched, both through individual stories as well as academic research and broader trends. Also super readable!
    more
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    A exemplary examination of our Criminal Justice system and ways we can change how we approach both crime and justice.
  • Neil McGee
    January 1, 1970
    Really good book, I read it straight through. Check it out.
  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    Highly readable account of the power of prosecutors in the American criminal justice system. Actually, this book shows that criminal justice is an oxymoron in the U.S.
  • James
    January 1, 1970
    Like Locked In, but more dramatized.
Write a review