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More Details Other Editions 6. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Unfair , please sign up. Do you think the judicial system in America is fair? Michael Counihan No! The more money you have, the easier to get away with a crime. See 1 question about Unfair…. Lists with This Book.

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Sort order. Apr 06, Darcia Helle rated it it was amazing Shelves: ebooks , culture-sociology , nonfiction , review-copies. I can sum up my thoughts in three easy words: Read this book. No, don't even hesitate long enough to read this review. Just buy the book. For those of you still with me, I'll do my best to offer some specifics. While the author gives us lots of facts to ponder, the content never feels dry or overly academic. Benforado writes in a conversational style, engaging his readers as if he's sitting with friends.

I read a lot on this topic, and this book is one of the best out there. We look at psychologi I can sum up my thoughts in three easy words: Read this book. We look at psychological studies and indisputable facts, proving our 'justice' system is anything but fair. We explore topics such as jury selection, which allows and even encourages lawyers to seek jurors with the most prejudicial tendencies in their favor.

The side with the most money to spend on consultants for jury selection has an enormous head start in the trial. Some of the most startling information, for me, came in the section on plea bargaining. I was aware that this often allowed violent criminals to plea down to lesser crimes for lesser time, but I wasn't aware how often it worked in reverse, forcing people who are not necessarily guilty of anything aside from being in the wrong place at the wrong time into plea bargains. This is particularly true with our poor and uneducated class of people, who cannot afford private lawyers and whose court-appointed attorneys are too overworked and underfunded to be of any real value.

These people are bullied, scared into believing they will do hard time if they opt for a jury trial. Sadly, this scare tactic works. Less than percent of cases ever go to trial. Our court system has instead become a plea bargaining system. The psychological information Benforada provides is both fascinating and upsetting. All of us, whether we realize it or not, make quick assumptions based on little fact.

I was startled to learn that even something as simple as having a lot of trees in a given neighborhood leads many of us to believe the neighborhood is safer than a similar city neighborhood with few trees. Once we've made an assumption, we look for data backing us up, while ignoring conflicting information. This isn't done maliciously. We aren't even necessarily aware of doing it, which makes it all the more challenging to conquer.

Benforado closes with some intriguing ideas for fixing our broken system. Whether you agree with his ideas or not, his insight opens a dialogue we desperately need to be having nationwide. Have I convinced you? I hope so.


Buy the book. Read it. Give it to friends. Then talk about it. Maybe then we'll finally start working toward change. View all 10 comments. Jun 06, Ellie rated it really liked it Shelves: indchallenge , non-fiction , first-reads , socio-political. Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado is a law professor's look at the American justice system-a system that turns out to be, in his view, more of an in justice system. Benforado compares today's system with examples from the middle ages and other periods of the past and examines the differences as well as the similarities between the two.

He asks, how far have we really come? The answer would appear to be, under huge surface differences, maybe not as far as we think. Ju Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado is a law professor's look at the American justice system-a system that turns out to be, in his view, more of an in justice system. Justice is unevenly applied, prisons are expensive and create more problems than they solve, and none of this seems to be truly connected to the prevalence of crime. Benforado looks at the many ways the justice system fails, despite the often well-meaning efforts of everyone in it.

And it seems to be getting worse. The vast majority of cases are resolved by plea bargains which the accused often accept even if innocent since the alternatives are gambles with high stakes, the poor, the mentally ill, and people belonging to minority groups are way over-represented, and as we all know the rich often walk from even serious crimes because of unequal resources. Benforado suggests many ways to solve specific problems but his ultimate answer is a radical one: treat criminals as human beings with problems and give help, not punishment.

He looks to Europe for examples of how this can be done and how it results in far lower recidivism rates. He also looks at ways in which similar changes are being done on a small scale in the United States. One interesting idea is the use of virtual trials to increase access to the system, save money, and increase objectivity of the lawyers and judges as well as for reasons detailed in the book witness accuracy. I had my own difficulties following Benforado into such alien territory, particularly when he talked about how victims can be helped to forgive the perpetrator of their pain.

And I am not sure how these changes would be carried out in a system as large as our is.

Unfair The New Science of Criminal Injustice

On the other hand, Benforado presents a powerful indictment of our current system which seems to be an expensive failure that creates more pain and suffering than an effective response to crime. Every American should read the analysis of our current system with its powerful examples of how the current system doesn't work, how, in fact, it fails miserably.

And everyone should begin to grapple with ideas of how it can be changed, whether or not they agree with Benforado's suggestions. I was torn between giving this book 3 or 4 stars. I would have like to give it 3. I read this book at one sitting, which speaks to the accessibility of the writing and the power of the presentation of an important subject. I hope this book opens the door for more discussion of our current systems and ways in which it can be changed for the better. In the interests of transparency, I would like to share that I won this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

The thoughts and opinions presented here are my own honest reactions. View all 4 comments. Jul 28, Chris rated it liked it. As depressing as you would expect from the title. But this is not just another book about structural racism or corruption, much of it is dedicated to exploring how profoundly incapable we are of living up to the fantasy of our justice system. He references countless studies showing that not just jurors and eyewitnesses, but police, lawyers and judges exhibit shockingly irrational behavior.

I read a fair number of topical "the world is going to hell if we don't fix X now" books, and much of this As depressing as you would expect from the title. I read a fair number of topical "the world is going to hell if we don't fix X now" books, and much of this book is completely under society's radar, meaning that comprehensive reform to address these psychological faults is likely on the other side of a long battle that hasn't even started yet. My biggest complaint about the book is the lack of endnotes. The bibliography is substantial, but Benforado will introduce the shocking results of a study with "research shows blah", with no hint to where in the 30 pages of bibliography for that chapter I should turn.

He promises full endnotes on his website, but that is still not available, although a pdf for an earlier draft is available. Perhaps he saved 20 pages by not having endnotes, but it cuts his message off at the knees. View 1 comment. Jun 29, Taryn rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction , librarything , received-from-publisher. Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice is an enlightening and well-structured book about the ways in which the current US criminal justice system fails us.

Adam Benforado, an associate professor law and a former attorney, focuses on how our hidden biases affect the justice system. He explains the problems in each part of the legal process and offers possible solutions. In fact, we are not such cool and deliberate detectives; rather, we are masters at jumping to conclusions based on an ext Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice is an enlightening and well-structured book about the ways in which the current US criminal justice system fails us. In fact, we are not such cool and deliberate detectives; rather, we are masters at jumping to conclusions based on an extremely limited amount of evidence.

The automatic processes in our brain commonly referred to as System 1 quickly take in the scene and then reach a conclusion about the victim based on what is right in front of us, without considering what we might be missing. Ambiguity and doubt are pushed to the side. In certain circumstances, our deliberative and effortful mental processes System 2 can override those initial impressions--and raise the specter of uncertainty--but often, they do not.

The less we know, the easier it is for us to produce a coherent story, and it is the consistency of the narrative that predicts how much confidence we will have in our assessment. The unfortunate result is that we may become overconfident precisely when we have limited or weak evidence. The book opens with an example of medieval justice.

The author walks the reader through each part of of the legal process, explains the current problems, and suggests solutions. Some of the solutions are surprisingly simple to implement, e. The book is extremely well-organized. Here is the table of contents: Part 1: Investigation 1. Dangerous Confessions - The Detective 3. Breaking the Rules - The Lawyer 5.

The Eye of the Beholder - The Jury 6. The Corruption of Memory - The Eyewitness 7. How to Tell a Lie - The Eyewitness 8. Umpires or Activists? An Eye for an Eye - The Public Endnotes are available at the author's website. The cases and experiments mentioned were fascinating. Some aspects this book reminded me of Predictably Irrational and Freakonomics series, but Unfair is deeper, more focused and more academic. Research suggests that once we have summed someone up, we search for data confining that identity and disregard or minimize evidence conflicting with it.

Of course, it doesn't feel that way. It feels as though we are just dispassionately sorting through the details. But really our minds are bending the facts, sawing off inconvenient corners, and tossing away contradictory information so that everything can be fit into our ready-made boxes. Some of my key takeaways from this book: 1 We all have hidden biases that we are not consciously aware of; police officers, judges and lawyers are not immune to these hidden biases. Most people aren't actively trying to be unfair.

This is not a quick and easy read, but it is really interesting and enlightening. I would recommend this to book to everyone, especially voters in the United States and people who are interested in the intricacies of the human mind and its inherent biases. In addition to this book, I would also recommend Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing because of overlapping themes blind certainty and cognitive dissonance.

Doubt isn't the enemy of blind justice--blind certainty is. I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, in exchange for an honest review. Jul 02, Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship rated it liked it Shelves: law-and-lawyers , sociology , 3-stars-and-a-half , nonfiction , united-states , psychology. It is more of an overview than a deep dive: in pages of text excluding the bibliography , the author discusses everything from snap judgments in investigations, to false confessions and erroneous eyewitness identifications, to the reasons some lawyers behave unethically, to misleading expert testimony, to judicial bias, to the workability of prisons.

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These are all important 3. These are all important issues and the author, a law professor, has many interesting proposals to improve on the problems. Unfortunately, he undermines his message by failing to source his facts, leaving readers with no authority for his arguments; any lawyer should know better. The book also discusses the reasons for criminal behavior, which often have less to do with deliberate moral choice than one might imagine.

Rather than simply detailing problems, Benforado does have plenty of suggestions for change. Some of these are relatively small and seem like excellent ideas. For instance, officers should be trained in cognitive interviewing asking few open-ended and non-suggestive questions of witnesses of crime to avoid tainting their memories, while witnesses about to view a lineup should be told that the suspect may or may not be included to prevent their simply choosing the one who looks most like the perpetrator. Some of the suggestions are much more global, and I give Benforado credit for thinking big and outside the box.

One intriguing idea is virtual trials: record the trial in advance and give jurors just the information, presented through avatars. This would eliminate biases based on physical appearance and performance, and allow a trial to be shown to multiple juries at little additional cost. He correctly points out that the procedural safeguards we build into the system in an attempt to prevent error often become ends in themselves, frustrating their original purpose.

But what could we do instead? But the book does have its drawbacks. Rather than endnotes to which one can refer for specific facts and studies, the author simply includes a bibliography for each chapter, with no indication as to which of the dozens of works cited include which information. This is particularly unfortunate on the topics for which he provides only vague information: for instance, he tells us that solitary confinement alters the brain in observable ways, but not what part of the brain is affected, what this part does, and what changes are seen once prisoners are freed.

This is an incredibly poor decision for someone who wants to profoundly change entrenched parts of officialdom. Less damaging but also unfortunate is the fact that, while Benforado presents information in a clear and readable style, his storytelling is less than stellar.

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He begins each chapter with a few pages of introductory fluff, which is a great opportunity to tell compelling human-interest stories related to the topic at hand — but more often than not he squanders it. For instance, the chapter dealing with physiognomy begins with rambling about how people are fascinated by mugshots. Most people plead guilty because they are, and the evidence against them is good. These are issues people should be thinking about. However, the lack of sourcing is a serious limitation; I can only hope it will be corrected in future editions.

Dec 05, Charlene rated it it was amazing Shelves: criminology-justice , non-fiction-inequality , politics , constructs , decision-making. Put it on the top of your to read list if you are interested in the Justice system. This is the book I have been waiting to read. I taught criminology and criminal justice to undergrads and am now wishing Adam Benforado had written a textbook.

I truly hope he turns this incredible popular science book about crime, decision-making, and justice into a textbook for the next generation of students who are interested in taking a job in some aspect of our criminal justice syste This book is EXCELLENT! I truly hope he turns this incredible popular science book about crime, decision-making, and justice into a textbook for the next generation of students who are interested in taking a job in some aspect of our criminal justice system. Whether students want to be lawyers, judges, police officers, or whether they will simply be jurors or vote for any judge or policy associated with crime in America, they need this information as a prerequisite.

In fact every American citizen should fully understand the various aspects of the justice system, since our tax dollars fund in and we play a part in determining what ideas and societal norms become laws. What this book is not: This book is not solely about race and the justice system. I still think it is a seminal work on mass incarceration that should be on everyone's reading list. No matter if someone is tough on crime or so soft they want to help every offender instead of punish them, they should fully understand the material in Alexander's book so they become familiar with how our justice system is particularly unjust when it comes to race-- even if the individual people in the justice system have a genuine desire to be fair.

I would recommend reading Alexander's book along with this. This book includes race but it is not the primary focus. It's about the accuracy of the human brain. Benforado provides the most important and robust science that the field of criminology has to offer. Too often I have read books which choose to sensationalize various crimes or jump to conclusions about neuroscientific evidence instead of employing a skeptical approach that results in information that is both accurate and fair.

He didn't need to.

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The truth is better than fiction. We are one of the wealthiest nations in the world. We pride ourselves on our freedom and our ability to govern fairly, and yet, we are human. Adding to that, we are a group of humans with opposing viewpoints. How can each person, no matter their political leanings, build a system that is fair to all people?

How well do we know our own brains? If we were a judge, a prosecutor, a police officer, a juror, how well would we do in dispensing fair justice? If you are like the typical, and often well meaning, judge, lawyer, juror, etc, the answer is, "Not very well. What are our motives for these practices? How have humans in America come to build a justice system that is so overloaded, it literally cannot handle the number of people we arrest? How have we created a system that forces a very large number of innocent people to plead guilty?

How easy is it to scare another human being into signing a piece of paper, saying they committed a crime they did not commit? How often does this happen? How easy is it to convince a teenager, a suggestible person, or someone with a low IQ that they committed a crime? How often does that happen? Are other countries doing better or worse than the U.

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Benforado's discussion of how crime statistics are bullshit was a highlight. I think he could have and should have gone a bit deeper with this topic but was extremely happy to see it covered at all. The truth is that in the U. It is simply not true. Police go into poor black neighborhoods and stop and frisk black people far more often. Since they are targeted in this way, they make it into the crime statistics as "guilt of a crime," whereas white people doing the same behaviors are let go more often.

We don't have an accurate view of who commits more crime; and yet, we act as if we know. This is a huge problem and one that deserves attention. Visit Our Stores. They really just don't design books the way they used to The evidence is all around us: Our system of justice is fundamentally broken. But it s not for the reasons we tend to think, as law professor Adam Benforado argues in this eye-opening, galvanizing book. Even if the system operated exactly as it was designed to, we would still end up with wrongful convictions, trampled rights, and unequal treatment.

This is because the roots of injustice lie not inside the dark hearts of racist police officers or dishonest prosecutors, but within the minds of each and every one of us.