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No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System
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No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  113 ratings  ·  15 reviews
No Equal Justice is the seminal work on race- and class-based double standards in criminal justice. Hailed as a “shocking and necessary book” by The Economist, it has become the standard reference point for anyone trying to understand the fundamental inequalities in the American legal system. The book, written by constitutional law scholar and civil liberties advocate Davi ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published February 1st 2000 by The New Press (first published 1999)
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3.91  · 
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 ·  113 ratings  ·  15 reviews

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May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: law
I first read excerpts of this book for my Crim class in law school where David Cole was the professor (before he went on to the ACLU) so obviously came in with a bias. That said, I thought he did a really solid job of presenting the structural racism inherent in our criminal justice system and the role, particularly of the Supreme Court, of reinforcing the spaces for discretion. The worst part is that while this book is "old" now, things have not changed so the message of hope for change now fee ...more
Aug 12, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: educated non-lawyers
In short: If you are a left-leaning lawyer, do not bother with this book. But if you are an educated non-lawyer, seriously consider reading it.


There is much to praise in No Equal Justice, which chronicles the legal landscape of American criminal justice one topic at a time -- searches and seizures, right to counsel, the death penalty, etc. -- and details how policy, and especially law, that purports to be racially neutral is in effect racially unequal and, concomitantly, unfair to the poores
Jan 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: social-justice
In the University of Chicago's World Beyond the Headlines lecture series (available by podcast), I heard David Cole discuss his book Less Safe, Less Free: The Failure of Pre-Emption in the War on Terror. He spoke very eloquently, so I looked up what other books he wrote.

The title comes from a quote by Justice Hugo Black: "There can be no equal justice as long as the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has."

In No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Jus
Jan 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2007
Cole’s book highlights the inequality (both racial and socioeconomic) within the American Criminal Justice System. His book demonstrates how pervasive race-and class-based double standards are in virtually every criminal justice setting (policing, jury selection, sentencing). He argues that our system depends on these double standards to operate, as they allow the privileged to enjoy constitutional protections, while keeping the minorities and the poor as an abundant criminal class.
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
This is a difficult book for me to rate because I changed my mind several times about how I felt about it. The truth is that Cole is extremely biased and uses biased language, however he presents a realistic difficulty in our criminal justice system. One that needs to be addressed. However, his remedies are ridiculous in their Utopianism and therefore unrealistic expectations.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely phenomenal. Cole surveys key Supreme Court (and state court) decisions relating to American criminal justice one topic at a time (search and seizure; "right" to counsel; death penalty; jury roll, venire, and selection; etc). He effectively argues his thesis that while these laws are formally race-neutral (to appeal to our American sensibilities of equal justice/rights for all), the specific wording in key cases allows implementation to hit hardest racial minorities and low income Amer ...more
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Holy hell, I don't even know where to begin. Although there is some legalize jargon that I am not really familiar with I find the things about the (in)justice system really appalling. I just find some of these stats incredible, specially considering that some of these things happened in the past few decades, not like 100 years ago. It's crazy to think how white privilege/white supremacy is really not going anywhere which is scary.
The more I kept reading the more shocked I would become which the
Tara Lynn
Apr 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
One, if you're going to write a book that makes statments suggestive of the idea that your information is current and correct, have it peer reviewed.

Two, if you're going to make statements about the American polity in a way that is supposed be objective, then your language should be objective.

Liberal though I may be, I put books like this in the "Anne Coulter" pile of trash. Any piece of material that purports itself to be educational, has no business trying to teach any topic from such a deep
Apr 01, 2013 rated it liked it
The three star rating is due to two factors: the charge by other reviewers that the information contained in this book is not up-to-date, and I am sincerely hoping that some of the positions of the supreme court have been changed since the time this was written, and secondly the fact that some of his arguments are contradicting themselves. Mr. Cole argues that juries are predominantly white, but cites the O.J. Simspon trial as a prime example of jury nullification.
May 30, 2012 added it
Cole's book is in many ways the primogenitor of Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow." This book is more geared towards law students, and spends a lot more time analyzing legal precedents than Alexander, who focuses more on statistics and anecdotes than Cole. The two books complement one another and overlap quite a bit, though I would still recommend reading both. Cole brings out points and references that Alexander does not, and vice versa.
Sam Newton
I have to agree with other reviewers. This is a good book to explain a "leftist" perspective on the last couple of decades of US Supreme Court jurisprudence in regards to issues of race. The Court has not been open to claims of discrimination, and in fact, allows virtually all legal actors to "legally" discriminate against minorities.
Oct 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Great read, even if a little dated. Touches on many of the problems portions of our society face when coming into contact with the criminal justice system.
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was interesting but it was from a very liberal slant. I think he raises some interesting points but this is definitely not written from a neutral standpoint.
Apr 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Interesting book that takes an important look at the issues of race and class in our American justice system.
Oct 15, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: Everyone
This series is a great edition to the Law books that I have owned and or read. As most of you already know by my list of selected books, I'm a criminal justice major.
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