A child is gunned down by a police officer; an investigator ignores critical clues in a case; an innocent man confesses to a crime he did not commit; a jury acquits a killer. The evidence is all around us: Our system of justice is fundamentally broken. But it’s not for the reasons we tend to think, as law professor Adam Benforado argues in this eye-opening, galvanizing book. Even if the system operated exactly as it was designed to, we would still end up with wrongful convictions, trampled rights, and unequal treatment. This is because the roots of injustice lie not inside the dark hearts of racist police officers or dishonest prosecutors, but within the minds of each and every one of us. This is difficult to accept. Our nation is founded on the idea that the law is impartial, that legal cases are won or lost on the basis of evidence, careful reasoning and nuanced argument. But they may, in fact, turn on the camera angle of a defendant’s taped confession, the number of photos in a mug shot book, or a simple word choice during a cross-examination. In Unfair, Benforado shines a light on this troubling new field of research, showing, for example, that people with certain facial features receive longer sentences and that judges are far more likely to grant parole first thing in the morning. Over the last two decades, psychologists and neuroscientists have uncovered many cognitive forces that operate beyond our conscious awareness. Until we address these hidden biases head-on, Benforado argues, the social inequality we see now will only widen, as powerful players and institutions find ways to exploit the weaknesses of our legal system. Weaving together historical examples, scientific studies, and compelling court cases—from the border collie put on trial in Kentucky to the five teenagers who falsely confessed in the Central Park Jogger case—Benforado shows how our judicial processes fail to uphold our values and protect society’s weakest members. With clarity and passion, he lays out the scope of the legal system’s dysfunction and proposes a wealth of practical reforms that could prevent injustice and help us achieve true fairness and equality before the law.
Writing My Wrongs
Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison is the true story of a man who went from being a convicted murderer, serving 19 years in prison, to becoming a leading voice for criminal justice reform and an inspiration to thousands. Shaka Senghor was raised in a middle-class neighborhood on Detroit’s east side during the peak of the 1980s crack epidemic. Under difficult circumstances at home, Shaka ran away at age 14, turned to drug dealing, and ended up in prison for murder at age 19. Writing My Wrongs (is his story of what came next. After pleading guilty to second-degree murder, Shaka was sentenced to 40 years in prison, entering the system at age 19, bitter, angry, and hurt. He blamed everybody, from his parents to the system, and he channeled that anger into violence. He ran a black market store, he loan sharked, and, halfway through his sentence, he was sent to solitary confinement for 4½ years for assaulting an officer to the point of near-death. A turning point in prison for Shaka occurred when his 10-year-old son wrote a letter to him recognizing the crucial reality for what he was in prison for—murder. With the cold hard truth hitting Shaka for the first time, his toughness and prison shrewdness wore off, as right there in that moment he realized he failed his son and the other black males in his neighborhood. Clinging on to hope from the letter his son wrote to him years earlier, Shaka continued to pour his time into literature, reading about Malcolm X and Nat Turner, Socrates and Donald Goines novels. He also discovered religion, meditation, and self-examination tools that he used to help him begin atoning for the wrongs he had committed. Shaka was more determined than ever to get a parole hearing. In 2008, he was granted a hearing but quickly denied, and then again in 2009, before he was able to enroll into the Assaultive Offender Program (AOP), a ten-month-long group therapy class required by all inmates with an assaultive case. Shaka eventually completed the AOP class and was up for parole yet a third time. “If I am released from prison, I plan to work and volunteer at local high schools and community centers,” he announced to a parole board member. He continued, “My ultimate goal is to pursue a career in writing.” On June 22, 2010, one day after his 38th birthday, Shaka was released from prison and was finally a free man. He stood by his words he shared with the parole board member, his family, and friends and became an activist and mentor to young men and women facing circumstances like his. His work in the community and the courage to share his story led him to fellowships at the MIT Media Lab and the Kellogg Foundation and invitations to speak at events like TED and the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Bear and Bee
Ages 2 - 5
"When a bear wakes up hungry from his winter nap, a beehive and its honey seem to be the perfect answer to his problem—but what about the bee? While Bear has never seen a bee, he knows they “are terrible monsters! They are big, and they have large teeth, and they have sharp claws, and they never share their honey!” He explains this to a nearby bee. (The “bees” Bear imagines are green alien-looking creatures sporting horns and curling proboscises.) But as Bee points out, one quality per spread, Bear shares all those characteristics with bees, at which point Bear dissolves into tears: He’s a bee! Bee quickly corrects Bear’s mistake and reveals what he is, lack of teeth and claws and all. And as for sharing honey…he is happy to. Short sentences with simple vocabulary and lots of repetition make this a good choice for beginning readers, who can use the illustrations’ clues to puzzle out more challenging words. Front endpapers and the dedication and copyright pages make a pleasing visual beginning to this story. Best of all, Ruzzier’s pacing is impeccable, adding to the suspense of Bear’s discovery and the sweet start of the duo’s friendship. The digitally colored pen-and-ink illustrations are simple and uncluttered, keeping the focus on the two expressive friends and making this a great choice for sharing with groups. The correction of misconceptions has never been so much fun.” -- Kirkus Review
Black and White
Marcus and Eddie are best friends who found the strength to break through the racial barrier. Marcus is black; Eddie is white. Stars of their school basketball team, they are true leaders who look past the stereotypes and come out on top. They are inseparable, watching each other’s backs, both on and off the basketball court. But one decision – one mistake – will change their friendship, and their lives, forever. Can Marcus and Eddie rise above their differences and save their friendship?
It started out as an innocent day for Martin, but it quickly turned into his worst nightmare – arrested for something he didn’t even mean to do. And five months later, he is still locked up in jail on Rikers Island. Just when things couldn’t get any rose, Martin gets caught in a fight between two prisoners, and his face is slashed. He’s scarred forever, but one good thing comes from the attack – Martin is transferred to a part of Rikers where inmates must attend high school. When he meets his caring and understanding teacher, will Martin open up and learn from his situation? Or will he be consumed by prison and getting revenge on his attackers?