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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Justice American Style

Courtroom 302 by Steve Bogoira describes a world most of us will never see, nor would we wish to.

"No man can examine the great penal system of this country without being astounded at its magnitude, its cost and its unsatisfactory results," said John Altgeld, Cook County judge and later governor of Illinois in 1890. At that time, the end result was the imprisonment of fifty-thousand citizens. Today the yield is 1.5 million.

Ironically the vast majority of those in the system are there for drug-related offenses, almost always non-violent crimes. If you beat your wife, you'll get released on an I-bond (recognizance), because it's a misdemeanor, not a felony, unlike drug offenses. For some bizarre reason we consider a health problem of much greater import than a violent crime.

Bogoira's book examines a the Chicago justice system during the course of a year from a variety of viewpoints: judges, accused, police and attorneys. You will finish the book grateful to have a job and money. Without these, you would most likely be in the maelstrom of the justice system.
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