Alec Karakatsanis at Book Loft of German Village
February 27, 2020
- 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Book Loft of German Village
631 South 3rd Street,
Columbus OH
About this Event
Usual Cruelty: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Criminal Injustice System
“Usual Cruelty lays out a compelling and damning argument that lawyers play a central role in rendering the criminal legal system unjust. . . . [Its] exposition of ‘the chasm between the law as it is written and the law as it is lived’ should be familiar to all lawyers, as should the pursuit of eliminating that chasm.”—Slate
“Alec Karakatsanis puts “human caging” and “wealth-based detention” in America on trial.”—Harvard Magazine
“A fiery indictment of America’s criminal justice system [and a] provocative cri de coeur.”—Publishers Weekly
“Alec Karakatsanis is a leading voice in the legal struggle to dismantle mass incarceration, this century’s defining civil rights issue. What he says cannot be ignored.”—James Forman, Jr., Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Locking Up Our Own
“A devastating indictment of the legal profession by one of our most important young lawyers, Usual Cruelty cuts to the core of what is critical to understand about our legal system, and about ourselves. Every law student and lawyer should read this book.”—Anthony D. Romero, executive director, ACLU
From an award-winning civil rights lawyer, a profound challenge to our society’s normalization of the caging of human beings, and the role of the legal profession in perpetuating it
Alec Karakatsanis is interested in what we choose to punish. For example, it is a crime in most of America for poor people to wager in the streets over dice; dice-wagerers can be seized, searched, have their assets forfeited, and be locked in cages. It’s perfectly fine, by contrast, for people to wager over international currencies, mortgages, or the global supply of wheat; wheat-wagerers become names on the wings of hospitals and museums.
He is also troubled by how the legal system works when it is trying to punish people. The bail system, for example, is meant to ensure that people return for court dates. But it has morphed into a way to lock up poor people who have not been convicted of anything. He’s so concerned about this that he has personally sued court systems across the country, resulting in literally tens of thousands of people being released from jail when their money bail was found to be unconstitutional.
Karakatsanis doesn’t think people who have gone to law school, passed the bar, and sworn to uphold the Constitution should be complicit in the mass caging of human beings—an everyday brutality inflicted disproportionately on the bodies and minds of poor people and people of color and for which the legal system has never offered sufficient justification. Usual Cruelty is a profoundly radical reconsideration of the American “injustice system” by someone who is actively, wildly successfully, challenging it.
A former public defender, Alec Karakatsanis is the founder of the Civil Rights Corps, an organization designed to advocate for racial justice and bring systemic civil rights cases on behalf of impoverished people. He was named the 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year by Public Justice and was awarded the Stephen B. Bright Award for contributions to indigent defense in the South by Gideon’s Promise. He lives in Washington, DC.
Alec Karakatsanis at Book Loft of German Village | The New Press


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