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Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  803 Ratings  ·  183 Reviews
"A law professor sounds an explosive alarm on the hidden unfairness of our legal system." Kirkus Reviews,starred

A child is gunned down by a police officer; an investigator ignores critical clues in a case; an innocent man confesses to a crime he did not commit; a jury acquits a killer. The evidence is all around us: Our system of justice is fundamentally broken.

But it
Hardcover, 379 pages
Published June 16th 2015 by Crown
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Matt Fitz For the multitude of cases yes, but when the justice system is a caste system, then no.

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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 injustice 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.

Bridgit Barger
Jul 01, 2016 Bridgit Barger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, 4-star-reads
Unfair by Adam Benforado tackles a difficult subject: the ironic injustice of our criminal justice system in the United States. He argues that our legal system has a wide array of flaws with no easy solution to eradicate them; Benforado suggests that psychological biases come into play in every aspect of prosecution.

The way Benforado sets up his argument (not going to go into a lot of detail; the book is short… read it!), it reminded me a lot of the equal pay issue in America and much of the wor
Jun 11, 2016 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 ...more
Charlene Lewis- Estornell
This book is EXCELLENT! 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 ...more
Oct 19, 2015 Christine rated it it was amazing
It’s not too often I use the word “brilliant” in writing a book review, but in the case of “Unfair” I have to say that it is nothing short of that description … brilliant. There are any numbers of books available on the subjects of false confessions, wrongful convictions and the flaws in both police practices and the court system. I have read several and, in my opinion, “Unfair” is the cream of the crop. If you read only one book on the subject this should be the book you choose.

In the introduc
Aug 28, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*I was a winner of a Goodreads Giveaway for this book.*

Unfair's intro talks a big game, promising to cover a range of issues and delve into the biases and many barriers to justice in our country faced by law enforcement, victims, defendants, lawyers, judges, and jurors (and everyone in between). I was so thrilled that this book delivered on all it's potential.

Benforado is an incredibly impassioned and unflinching writer who addresses the history of our issues as well as practical approaches to
Man I am just not made for non-fiction reads.

First off I'll say I got this book because my former law school professor wrote it. Benforado was a funny teacher and his classes enjoyable. I listened to the audiobook version of this and was disappointed he did not actually narrate the book himself (I wasn't expecting him to but it would have been nice)
I enjoyed the first part of this book, which had case studies, a lot more than I did the later parts, which offer possible solutions.

No doubt our le
Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado

“Unfair" is a fantastic, well-researched look at what is at the heart of our unfair criminal system. Law professor Adam Benforado has provided the public with an eye-opening gem grounded on the best current science, historical court cases and insightful research. He explores the nature of the criminal mind, eyewitness memory, jury deliberations, police procedures, and intuitions about punishment. This enlightening 402-page book incl
Ann Rufo
Sep 22, 2015 Ann Rufo rated it it was amazing
A lot of times I'll hear interviews with authors on NPR and I'll feel compelled to read the book they're discussing. I think this is because there is something magical in the specific tenor NPR hosts use - slow, with exacting pauses, and raises in excitement of voice, and something overly smooth in general that convinces me I must trust them and read what they suggest. That I also work in criminal defense made me pick up Benforado's book, just as the interview was ending.

Read this book. If you
May 24, 2016 Paul rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, crime
I wanted to like this book, because I agree with many of the main points about the fallibility of the legal system, but this book is rife with modern psychology results that I find incredibly dubious presented as fact. Radically overhauling our justice system based on the results of these tenuous psychological experiments would be a terrible idea, and really gives you an understanding of precisely why things like the justice system should be conservative by nature.

I also was not in the least swa
Feb 09, 2016 Ann rated it it was ok
I know I am in the minority here but I did not like this book. We already know our education system is broken, our political system is broken and our justice system is in shambles. Listening to "Serial Podcasts" or watching, "Making a Murderer" gives you a more in depth vision than this book.

What bothered me most about this book was the depressing tone it took. According to Benforado, we are all innately prejudiced so there is no way to achieve fairness. His solutions were just bizarre. I think
May 22, 2016 Pat rated it really liked it
This was a provocative read peppered with many interesting cases to prove the author's points. I don't agree with all of his findings or recommendations, but I certainly agree with enough of them to concur that our system is flawed...and fatally for far too many. Looking forward to our book club discussion on this one.
Andy Zell
May 11, 2015 Andy Zell rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado is a critical examination of the American criminal justice system. And it is vitally important that we look at it. Benforado details the many, many ways that the criminal justice system does not, in fact, deliver justice. The structure of the book, from investigation to adjudication to punishment, allows him to show how things can go wrong each step of the way. Along the way he points out the relevant social science research that ...more
Kevin O'brien
The author does a good job discussing some interesting scientific studies about the underlying causes of criminality and the ways that human fallibilities can foster unfairness in law enforcement, but goes off the rails once he starts editorializing. For example, after an interesting discussion on how the perspective of a video camera on a cop car can influence the interpretation of the video as overly sympathetic to a police officer who made arguably an overly aggresive move to stop a car chase ...more
Jeremy Stock
Mar 19, 2016 Jeremy Stock rated it it was amazing
Another important read in the all too-real world of wrongful conviction.

Benforado takes an approach that I haven't come across yet. He spends a lot of time bringing forward psychological studies and applies them to our criminal justice system. The science behind why our system fails us so often is very closely tied to our human tendency to believe that we are capable of setting aside our biases (including hosts of biases and false beliefs that we don't even know we have), coming to "the truth"
victor harris
Aug 15, 2016 victor harris rated it really liked it
Although it hasn't attracted much mainstream attention, it is well worth a visit. As the title indicates it deals with the "science" of the justice system. One might add and the "social science" as it delves into the psychological dimensions of judges and juries. Unfortunately much of the progress made in such areas is not heeded, either by design or through ignorance. Often that very science is used to reinforce prejudices and court presentations that can influence jurors who are not science ...more
Judy N
Jun 24, 2015 Judy N rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
This is a crucially important book: the author applies social theory and psychology to the justice system, evaluating the process of police interrogations, eyewitness identification, jury selection, the huge number of people incarcerated and the use of solitary confinement--essentially a review of the entire justice system, viewed through the lens of social science and history. Although I work with people who are mentally ill and frequently incarcerated, my understanding of the justice system ...more
Stephanie Moran
Mar 21, 2016 Stephanie Moran rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-buy
"It's time for honest reflection. Justice should not be a commodity." ~ Adam Benforado

Food for thought book! Must read for anyone who is in criminal justice, studying criminal justice, or who is seriously dedicated to reform within our current justice system.

Benforado does a superb job of breaking down the current system into different parts and players. From there he goes about analyzing what it is set up to do and it's shortcomings. But Benforado doesn't just make a laundry list of what's wron
Aug 28, 2015 Jeanne rated it really liked it
Martin Luther King asserted, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Benforado's compelling and strong summary of the social psychological research related to witness identification, jury selection, prosecution and more is a good and important read. While I was aware of much of this research before, Benforado organized it well, used case material effectively to illustrate his points, and drew useful conclusions about how to create a more fair judicial system, one ...more
Jun 10, 2015 Olivia rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of this book free from Goodreads First Reads Giveaway, and I am SO glad that I did. This book is one of the most well researched, and well thought out books I have read in a very long time. Each chapter is filled with gripping stories and examples, and well thought out analysis and opinions on such. The stories throughout are absolutely shocking and often horrifying (which I firmly believe we need to hear about to really understand how flawed our justice system is), and offer a ...more
A law professor at Drexel, Benforado marshals voluminous research on psychology and the brain, along with concrete examples from real cases to reveal and explain the dysfunctions of the criminal justice system, and offers suggestions for reform. “Beautifully written and a pleasure to read,” this novel with fire up any reader’s civil rights. Prepare to be angered.
Angela Juline
Aug 17, 2016 Angela Juline rated it it was amazing
His thinking is really outside the box...and it's really hard to get your mind to consider his recommendations. I knew there were problems with the legal system, but I was surprised by my own biases - really challenged me and forced me to face the built in injustice in our criminal proceedings.
Feb 03, 2015 Sweetpea rated it it was amazing
I received a free copy of this book from the GoodReads First Reads giveaways in exchange for an honest review. Comprehensive, well written, fascinating read.
Todd Hornbeck
Jun 19, 2015 Todd Hornbeck rated it really liked it
The impact of psychology and other factors plays a large part on how a criminal verdict is reached. No longer do I believe evidence decides a criminal case.
Oct 30, 2015 Gary rated it liked it
Light but worth reading, and makes you look at criminal justice from new angles.
May 04, 2016 Katie rated it really liked it
Absolutely fascinating. Although not entirely encouraging, but soooo worth a read.
Robert Federline
Adam Benforado has had the opportunity in his career to observe the law from many different vantage points. He engaged in the practice of law, which can sometimes warp one's vision, placing you too close to the action, and being overwhelmed by the demands and needs of your clients. He was employed by a federal circuit court of appeals, which deals with the law as a policy-setting tool, and looks to shape the experiences of society into the future, and he also works as a professor in a highly ...more
Tonstant Weader
Sep 30, 2016 Tonstant Weader rated it really liked it
Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado is one of those important books with the capacity to change our direction, if only enough people read it and are inspired by it to agitate for criminal justice reform. It is one of those books you want every person in elective office to read, that you want every prosecutor, ever police officer and every judge to read—not to walk away with tricks to trigger our biases to win more often, but to actually focus on creating a justice ...more
Oct 28, 2015 Judie rated it it was amazing
While most people don’t have much personal experience with the U.S. justice system, many of those who do are very unhappy with it. Adam Benforado, an associate professor of law at Drexel University, has written a concise, reader-friendly book about what is wrong with the system and suggests ways to correct it. The topics cover investigation, adjudication, punishment, and reform.
Early on he asks, “How will someone nine hundred years from now view our current system of justice?” and predicts th
Nov 29, 2016 Terry rated it really liked it
Unfair focuses on both the honest and dishonest side of the criminal justice system. It is measured and sober, focusing on lab tests, statistics, and in-depth studies to identify systematic biases that make us unequal before the law. Most of the findings weren't new but the author comments on responses to breakdowns in the illusion of equality. Sonia Sotomayor comments on how she may have a different worldview coming from a background different from others and her appointment is contested until ...more
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Adam Benforado is a professor, writer, and lawyer. Conducting novel experiments and developing existing findings, Professor Benforado's research is focused on uncovering the hidden forces that drive our legal system.

A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, he served as a federal appellate law clerk and an attorney at Jenner & Block, before becoming a law professor at Drexel Universit
More about Adam Benforado...

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“We will fight tirelessly to protect the rights of those who spew hate in the public square, stockpile weapons capable of wiping out classrooms of children, and flood our airwaves with lies to sway elections, but we draw the line at permitting a man convicted of stealing videotapes a door to his toilet, the chance to spend a night with his family, or the experience of preparing his own dinner in his own shirt. If ensuring freedom for those who may harm us is worth the risk when the costs are high, that must certainly be the case when protecting their rights leaves us safer.” 2 likes
“The arc of history does not bend toward justice unless we bend it.” 2 likes
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