Adam Benforado believes that, not only has the United State’s criminal justice system been built on many false pretenses and prejudice, but people are fundamentally unable to execute even the best of intentioned practices. In Unfair, the Drexel University law professor breaks down how each individual actor; the victims, detectives, suspects, lawyers and the jury, has their own shortcomings and furthermore, most fail to acknowledge this in themselves. Without getting too technical, the author analyzes why people are inclined to make the decisions they do, including context both historical and scientific. What leads people to commit crimes and what are the actual factors that must be changed to deter similar decisions in the future? Can the witness really remember what happened to them on that traumatic night 6 months ago? In 2016, statistics about the disproportionate application of the law based on race are prevalent. Why do so many police, judges, juries and even lawyers treat people of color harsher? Benforado proposes a step towards accepting blame and accountability, which will lead to real analysis and reflection. This can replace the tendencies that humans have to give more weight to information they already hold true, and dismiss something they are against, both purposefully and sub-consciously.
Benforado does a good job of taking a broad approach while managing to narrow things down to particular policy suggestions and individual experiences in the system. While it is certainly part of the new wave of interest in criminal justice reform and progressive viewpoints, it is not extreme. It is aimed at making the system better in every sense of the word but it may not be enough for some readers. It seems likely that the author would agree the whole approach to the current legal system is essentially wrong. However, the author does still agree that a legal system is necessary. There is some discussion of the alternative options that are more preventative than reparative but it is clearly not the focus.
Readers that are interested in criminal justice and prison reform should get a copy of Unfair. Benforado poses enough open-ended ideas that even experts will find something to pique their interest. The more aware the general public becomes of the traumatic realities that this part of our population is being subjected to, the more likely things are to change for the better.
Find out what propositions you can vote on this November! Californians, check out Props 57, 62, 64 and 66.
Unfair by Adam Benforado