Book Review: Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment by Angela J. Davis

Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and ImprisonmentPolicing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment by Angela J. Davis
Publisher: Pantheon
Release Date: July 11, 2017
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s Description:

A comprehensive, readable analysis of the key issues of the Black Lives Matter movement, this thought-provoking and compelling anthology features essays by some of the nation’s most influential and respected criminal justice experts and legal scholars.

Policing the Black Man explores and critiques the many ways the criminal justice system impacts the lives of African American boys and men at every stage of the criminal process, from arrest through sentencing.  Essays range from an explication of the historical roots of racism in the criminal justice system to an examination of modern-day police killings of unarmed black men. The contributors discuss and explain racial profiling, the power and discretion of police and prosecutors, the role of implicit bias, the racial impact of police and prosecutorial decisions, the disproportionate imprisonment of black men, the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, and the Supreme Court’s failure to provide meaningful remedies for the injustices in the criminal justice system. Policing the Black Man is an enlightening must-read for anyone interested in the critical issues of race and justice in America. 

Policing the Black Man is a detailed guide to how institution racism affects every aspect of the criminal justice system. It’s a compilation of essays, written by different authors, that includes topics such as the police shootings of unarmed black men, the prosecution of both black men in general and in police officers involved in shootings, the grand jury process, and the regular criminal trial sentencing process.

I learned so much from this book. Prior to reading this, I had mostly considered the racial bias of the police force and the judges in criminal trials. I didn’t really know anything about how the grand jury process works. And turns out, no one else does either. It’s highly secret and only the prosecutor and the jury know what happens behind the closed doors of the trial.

The essay on prosecutors was enlightening as well. I didn’t realize how much the prosecutor can affect the outcome of the trial. I figured that it affected how black men were treated as defendants but didn’t consider how the prosecutor affect the process when it’s a police officer on trial. I guess I assumed that the prosecutor always fights wholeheartedly for the government’s side no matter who he’s prosecuting. However, this isn’t always the case because of the close relationship between the prosecutor and the police. The police need prosecutors to prosecute the people they arrest and the prosecutors need the police officers to testify in the criminal trials. Therefore, the prosecutors might be reluctant to upset the police department by sending some of their officers to prison.

I liked the way Policing the Black Man was structured, in that each essay was about a different topic. It was easy to read an essay or two in a sitting without feeling like I was getting information overload. The essays are thoroughly researched with copious notes after each one. This book is a comprehensive look at the institutional racism present in the criminal justice system. I highly, highly recommend it.

(I received a complimentary copy of this book for review.)