Scant Documentation Makes A Weaker Case. First, I generally agree with the author’s overall points here, even while disagreeing with his more leftist slants on a lot of his recommendations – unionizing prison inmates among them. But even in cases such as here where I generally agree, I have a history of judging a book based on the actual merits of the actual arguments and verifications therein, and this book simply doesn’t hold up. Its Bibliography (at least in the Advance Review Copy form) is barely 15% of the text, which is about half the norm and maybe 1/3 the length of the Bibliography of truly well documented treatises. And while the author’s career experience as a litigating attorney can account for some of it, even here – provide at least some documentation for your claims, so that those who *don’t* have that background can verify them. But the lack of documentation is the primary argument here for overall lack of persuasiveness. Furthermore, another star was deducted for ultimately not satisfying the overall premise as laid out in the description – which admittedly is a combined effort of both author and publisher, and not always in the author’s hands. Still, the description here proposes that the book argues that plea bargaining “produces a massive underclass of people who are restricted from voting, working, and otherwise participating in society”… and while Canon occassionally makes reference to this, he never really establishes that particular line of reasoning here. Indeed, for *that* side of the criminal justice system there really are a few other vastly superior texts that have released over the last few years. Instead, Canon more takes these as a given – again, with little documentation – and argues – with little documentation – that plea bargaining is the chief cause of this. As stated at the beginning of this review, while I *generally* agree with this line of reasoning, I simply expect a better documented (and ultimately more evenly argued) presentation of this, particularly in a book released to a wide audience, including those who may be predisposed to *not* agreeing with the argument for any number of reasons. Still, ultimately a worthy read that at least adds yet another voice to the conversation, and for that reason it is very much recommended.
Another Critical Book For Those Seeking To Understand The American Justice System. This is yet another critical book for those seeking to understand the full scope of all that is wrong with the American justice system and how we got here, along with Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop, Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow (referenced herein, with solid points about where Alexander goes wrong in her presumptions), and Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law’s Prison By Any Other Name. Whereas Balko looks at police militarization, Alexander looks at mass incarceration, and Schenwar and Law look at probation and parole, here we look at the critical phase *between* arrest and conviction – the various and severely punitive pre-trial punishments and plea bargains. It is within the scope of this particular problem that Hessick shows just how large and pervasive this particular problem is – to the level that even as many often acknowledge its shortcomings, it is often protected as a means of not “overburdening” the courts! (A tip for “lawmakers”: Rescind 10 laws for every 1 you pass. That would go quite far in reducing the burden on the courts. #ijs 😉 )
Truly a remarkable and shocking work, and one that every American needs to read. Very much recommended.