Books: Non-Fiction

Justice in Everyday Life: The Way It Really Works

Books - Non-fiction. Howard Zinn. 1974. Howard Zinn's book on the way justice really works in the U.S. and how it can change for the better.
Themes: Criminal Justice & Incarceration

In Justice in Everyday Life, Howard Zinn explores the reality of justice, which has always stood in contrast to the rhetoric about equal rights under the law. With sections on the police, the courts, prisons, housing, work, health, schools, and popular struggle, this book features classic essays by a diverse group of authors, including Jonathan Kozol.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Boston University professor Zinn and his collaborators rake through the workings of justice in this country and turn up a great deal of muck. These are reports by observers (many of them Zinn’s students) not only of the courts but also of police, prison administrators and employers. The word is that injustice is the real American institution.

Here, for example, are the Hemenway Street riot, in which the Boston Police force ran amok, the compelling diary of a life prisoner, legal hysteria in suburban Wellesley over the production of an allegedly “obscene” play. This is really a study of powerlessness, with a few flashes of hope as people begin to fight back against avaricious landlords or corrupt judges.

Zinn’s message isn’t “tear it down” but rather “let’s change the system.” And the changes, Zinn reasons, must begin on home turf in the neighborhoods, the factories, the schools, radiating outward from there. This is a discomfiting book, making a powerful anecdotal case that justice is a high-minded abstraction with little connection to what most people actually get.

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