Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America's Largest Criminal Court

Crook County Racism and Injustice in America s Largest Criminal Court America s justice system is broken Racial profiling police brutality and mass incarceration are rampant especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities of color But what of the criminal c

  • Title: Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America's Largest Criminal Court
  • Author: Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve
  • ISBN: 9780804790437
  • Page: 412
  • Format: Hardcover
  • America s justice system is broken Racial profiling, police brutality, and mass incarceration are rampant, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities of color But what of the criminal courts, the places where primarily Black and Latino men are taken from the streets and processed into the prisons The majority of Americans have remained in the dark for tooAmerica s justice system is broken Racial profiling, police brutality, and mass incarceration are rampant, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities of color But what of the criminal courts, the places where primarily Black and Latino men are taken from the streets and processed into the prisons The majority of Americans have remained in the dark for too long about this vital aspect of the system Crook County breaks open the courthouse doors and enters the hallways, courtrooms, judges chambers, and attorneys offices to reveal a world of punishment determined by race, not offense.After ten years and over 1,000 hours of working in and observing the largest criminal courthouse in the country, Chicago Cook County, Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve takes readers inside to our so called halls of justice to witness the types of everyday racial abuses that fester within the courts, often in plain sight We watch as mostly Black and Latino defendants confront white professionals charged with classifying and deliberating their fates in the courtroom Racial abuses and violations are encouraged and even seen as justified Courthouse security guards cruelly mock and joke at the expense of a defendant s family members Public defenders make choices about which defendants they will try to save and which they will sacrifice Judges fall asleep on the bench Prosecutors hang out like frat boys in the judges chambers while the fates of defendants hang in the balance These are just a few snapshots of the impossibly unprofessional behaviors of those tasked with the deadly serious job of facilitating justice in America.Crook County s powerful, and at times devastating, stories reveal a legal culture steeped in racial stigma a pernicious legal world where courtroom actors live and breathe racism while simultaneously committing themselves to a colorblind ideal This book urges all citizens to take a closer look at the way we do justice in America and to hold our arbiters of justice accountable to a high standard of equality.

    One thought on “Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America's Largest Criminal Court”

    1. To begin let me say that I was an assistant Cook County public defender for 25 years until my retirement. For the last 10 of those years I was assigned to the CCPD's Homicide Task Force. I was actively practicing in this court system at the time the author made her initial observations that formed the inspiration for this book. I am intimately familiar with the courthouse, its processes, behaviors, personnel etc. So where do I start? First this is a book review and not a dissenting opinion thoug [...]

    2. Fascinating. I work in this system as a public defender, and overall I think the author's criticisms are well taken. I have some nits to pick with some of her characterizations, particularly with characterizing certain actions of defense attorneys, and in fairness to defense attorneys I think that certain institutional problems with doing this kind of work (mandatory sentencing, prosecutorial over-charging, etc) aren't fairly represented. But, this isn't a book about public defense, and it has m [...]

    3. Did not think this was well written at all. Quite insulting to criminal defense attorneys, and public defenders (I may be biased, as I am a career public defender and have close friends who are private criminal attorneys.) But it's fairly evident that this was written by someone who doesn't realize what a defense attorney has to do in order to secure the best outcome for their client. The use of "court watchers" is such an ignorant way to analyze the disparities in criminal practice; I've seen M [...]

    4. This book really makes you think twice about all of the procedures and interactions in criminal courts that become everyday -- things people stop noticing, practices we stop second-guessing, comments that stop seeming wrong.

    5. This book is extremely misleading and also dated even though recently published. Having personal knowledge of the system and knowing there are issues in Cook County and changes that need to be made, I can tell you that this author had lost all credibility with me. The assumptions made and the broad generalizations and leaps to conclusions from the spectator's point of view without knowing the whole story is infuriating to me. See my thoughts as I read the book below:1) Having only read the intro [...]

    6. Early on in Crook County it became apparent that the author was trying to impress someone. Buzzwords are thrown around with reckless abandon. My guess is she intended the book for an academic audience and not mass market. That is the least of my concerns with her book though.Early on Van Cleve makes it clear that she thinks racism is rampant in Cook County. She’s probably right. But she finds it in the most mundane of things. She’ll throw racism or racist in front of other words, with little [...]

    7. WOW. ok so excellent and well done. my only (smallish) complaint is readability - some of these sentences were incredibly dense (and thorough) - I think this is the lawyer writing coming through. and that's not bad, but I did spend a while on a few of them. this is a book that is trying to do the very difficult task of straddling academic writing and research with mass readability and for the most part I think the author does it well, but there is some repetition in her quest to be thorough. Tha [...]

    8. An important topic obtusely handled by Van Cleve. Dozens of other books on race and/or criminal justice would provide more nuance and innovation in their critique.

    9. I'm sad to say that I'm disappointed with this book. I had been looking forward to reading it well before it was released and, I guess per my own fault (for expecting too much of it), it didn't live up to expectations. I want to preface this review with this: I am no fan of Cook County, and I think the title of this book accurately describes the county as a crooked one, but so is the author's presentation of it. NGVC does three really frustrating things throughout the book that put her credibili [...]

    10. It's only the writing of this book that prompts me to give it three stars. I found it to be a bit dry and redundant. The content and message of the book, however, deserves four or five stars. This is critical information that comes from an ethnographical account from Van Cleve's time in the Cook County criminal justice system. What I really appreciate is Van Cleve's conclusion with a call to action. So many books about the injustices in policing and criminal justice system come without suggested [...]

    11. The writing, which varies a lot in quality and at times can feel like that of a very talented undergraduate, is easily the most glaring problem with this book. And the application of sociological concepts can at times feel a little ad hoc or sloppy. But overall this is essential reading for anyone interested in mass incarceration, the criminal justice system, or the mechanisms of modern racism. And should obviously be of interest to anyone who actually lives in Cook County. (As happy as I am tha [...]

    12. This book is decent but could have been so much more. At times it cites data and then makes a case it is a system that is bad. Author for example talks about the law schools where lawyers in criminal system and the judges as mostly "hail[ing] from regional law schools rather than those categorized as elite." But she does not clearly state how that is injustice. She also takes issues with the location of the courthouse at 26th and California, but ignores the fact that when built 90+ years ago, th [...]

    13. This is probably a book I should've given up on (but I never quit books). Or, I'm thinking, read at a different time. I really wanted to get more out of this book. I think the topic is critical and important and respect the work that went into this book.But. It took me 90+ days and 9 renewals at the library to get through it. It felt very much like I was reading someone's dissertation. I found myself re-reading sentences, and at times re-writing them in my head in simpler language.

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