On Tuesday, Davenport hosted a tea with James Forman Jr., a Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He is also the author of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. Professor Forman teaches and writes in the areas of criminal procedure and criminal law policy, constitutional law, juvenile justice, and education law and policy. His particular interests are schools, prisons, and police, and those institutions’ race and class dimensions.
Sydney Daniels ’19 (who has worked in the Public Defender Service for D.C. and is also involved with Yale Undergraduate Prison Project and and the Yale Undergraduate Legal Aid Association) provided her thoughts on Tuesday’s tea: “It’s important that all people interested in reforming the criminal justice system read Forman’s book because it complicates the narratives posed by Michelle Alexander in the New Jim Crow, Elizabeth Hinton in From the War on Crime to the War on Drugs and Bryan Stevenson in Just Mercy. Forman forces us to consider the various perspectives of the victims of violent crimes who weren’t concerned with macro-level changes but who feared for the safety of their families and their lives. Locking Up Our Own is a beautiful work that blends personal narratives of pain and victimhood with firsthand accounts from black policy makers to challenge the idea that mass incarceration was the result of a concerted effort on the part of the nation’s white conservatives to put black people in cages. This account is particularly striking because it comes from a black man and public defender who also happens to be the son of a prominent civil rights activist. Forman reminds the reformers of today that we must reconcile the need to protect black victimhood with the decriminalization of black male bodies.”