Courtroom 302

Thankfully, my time in actual courthouses has (so far) been brief, even though we quite frequently deal with corporate attorneys as part of our business, everything has been worked out before litigation became necessary. I'll probably read this book (or at least purchase it, and keep it on my shelf with all the other interesting titles that I haven't gotten around to reading yet. I'm looking at you, Herbert Asbury!

Anyway, his premise is plausible.

True, [Steve Bogira's] book takes a rare close-up look at the day-to-day workings of the nation's criminal justice system -- detailing with clarity and accuracy the nuts and bolts of a particular courthouse and chronicling all the hard work that judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, clerks and guards put in each day.

But Bogira also comes to a damning judgment of the court system, expressed early in the book.

He argues that, for all the labor of court workers and for all their best intentions, the activity of the courthouse is a daily miscarriage of justice. That's because it doesn't -- and can't -- address what Bogira sees as the root of the U.S. crime problem: poverty. - Tribune

Bogira's book, “Courtroom 302” (Knopf, 401 pages, $25), is a meticulously researched examination of the workings of the criminal courts building, the biggest and busiest felony courthouse in the nation. It focuses on the people, particularly the defendants, who moved through this one courtroom over a 12-month period.
That's one of several metaphors Bogira employs to describe life at 26th Street, as the court building is often called. Another is that of a huge factory through which defendants move like so much raw material being sorted, handled and spat out.

Still another image, one sometimes used by court personnel, is the building as a kind of garbage disposal system. As one sheriff's deputy says, “We get the dregs of humanity here.”

“The guilty plea,” Bogira says, “is central to the system working. It allows this factory to keep moving -- which, in turn, allows us to feel we're addressing our crime problems. It's a great enabler.”

Bogira's argument is simple: Americans could attack crime by attacking its source -- by working to reduce poverty through jobs, better schools, better housing and better health care. But the U.S. has decided, he contends, that it's cheaper and easier to let crime happen (generally, in low-income neighborhoods) and deal with it in the courts.

Courtroom 302

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on May 19, 2005 8:24 AM.

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