*** Unfair by Adam Benforado


Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice is a sobering account of how the criminal justice system contains personal and systemic biases that result in decidedly unfair outcomes for many. The author looks at how crimes are investigated, judged, and punished, and then proposes solutions — and by the time you get to the solutions chapter you may feel quite hopeless, but fortunately the solutions are practical and inspiring.

Most of the weaknesses exposed in the book derive from cognitive biases: exhausted but innocent suspects wanting out of the interrogation room and confessing to crimes they never committed, eyewitnesses deceived by badly run lineups that suggest one individual must be the guilty one, judges who are too white and too male and who naturally bring their preferences to the courtroom, jurors who prefer to go with the flow and with the group “consensus”…

The solutions are not all to be found in the justice system itself. For instance, minimizing cash on the street by distributing welfare payments through debit cards decreases crime itself, which benefits potential victims alongside the suspects that may not be treated fairly. Still, many accepted procedures could be reformed (and in many cases have been changed, at least in some locales) to restore a little more fairness.

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