Bazelon tells the tales of Noura and Kevin in rich, novelistic prose, which at its best puts one in mind of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s book “Random Family” (2003), about a troubled family from the Bronx in the grip of the criminal justice system. . .
Bazelon interweaves Kevin’s and Noura’s stories with a remarkable amount of academic research by law professors, criminologists and other social scientists. The endnotes, replete with charts and graphs, run to more than 50 pages and acknowledge intellectual debts to such thinkers as Angela J. Davis, Paul Butler, Michelle Alexander and William Stuntz. This combination of powerful reporting with painstaking research yields a comprehensive examination of the modern American criminal justice system that appeals to both the head and the heart.
—DAVID LAT, New York Times Book Review
“The first book in “Charged” grabs for the heart: It is a riveting page-turner about two criminal defendants and their prosecutors. The second one goes for the reader’s mind: It’s a lucid synthesis of the most important research on mass incarceration and an insightful analysis of the politics of law and order in the era of President Trump and Black Lives Matter.”
—PAUL BUTLER, The Washington Post
“Charged,” though far-reaching in purpose, is above all a study of two cases in which prosecutorial misconduct or overreach put two people through hell. [Bazelon] tells these stories in microscopic detail, analyzing the background of each bizarre stop along the infernal circle—why bail is so hard to get and why it exists at all; why public defenders are often so inadequate—in a way that allows the specific case stories to become general truths. Her book achieves what in-depth first-person reporting should: it humanizes the statistics.”
—ADAM GOPNIK, The New Yorker
“In this deeply researched, elegantly told book, Bazelon reveals how unchecked prosecutorial power has damaged the American justice system. Charged shows that our courts are not level playing fields. Rather, accused citizens, defense attorneys, and even judges are at the mercy of prosecutors who have used their influence to drive the prison boom. This harrowing, often enraging book is a hopeful one, as well, profiling innovative new approaches and the frontline advocates who champion them. This is a necessary read for those who care about inequality, the law, and the future of American justice.”
—MATTHEW DESMOND, author of Evicted
“An insightful, highly readable examination of local prosecutors—who they are, what they do, and how they do it. At a moment when electing progressive prosecutors has become a cornerstone of the movement against mass incarceration, this book offers reasons for both caution and hope.”
—JAMES FORMAN, JR., Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Locking Up Our Own
“An important, thoughtful, and thorough examination of criminal justice in America that speaks directly to how we reduce mass incarceration and increase fairness. Comprehensive and beautifully written, a book every policy maker should read.”
—BRYAN STEVENSON, author of Just Mercy
“This book made me feel better. Hopeful, even! Because Emily Bazelon, cogent and clear-eyed as ever, lays out a welcome, double-barreled argument: A prosecutorial shift toward mercy and fairness is crucial to healing our busted criminal-justice system, and it’s already happening. What’s that, you say? You want step-by-step instructions for how to reform your local prosecutors office? No sweat: Charged has that, too. Just skip to the end.”
—SARAH KOENIG, host of Serial
“For years, Emily Bazelon has been exposing the incessant horror of the American criminal justice system with excruciating clarity. Now, in Charged, she walks the reader through the steps of a criminal case, untangling our impenetrable and complex system and providing crucial context for understanding the depths of the problem. Touching, unnerving, and at times infuriating, Charged is for novices and experts alike—a book for anyone concerned about those suffering from injustice, and outraged by those perpetuating it.”
—JOSIE DUFFY RICE, co-host of the Justice in America podcast and senior strategist at the Justice Collaborative
“Emily Bazelon brings urgent issues of criminal justice to life by telling the gripping stories of real people in a way that few writers can do. Charged is that rare page-turner—as deeply researched as its complex subject of criminal prosecution requires, as dramatic as the American dilemma of mass incarceration demands, and as practical as our hunger for bipartisan solutions to politically intractable problems calls for.”
—LAURENCE H. TRIBE, Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School
A renowned journalist and legal commentator exposes the unchecked power of the prosecutor as a driving force in America’s mass incarceration crisis—and charts a way out.
photo by Nina Subin