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May 21, 2024 Book Review

Recent Reads for Fairer Sentencing and Pre-trial Procedure

Jolie Zangari

Rehabilitation and Incarceration: In Search of Fairer and More Productive Sentencing

Professional Practice
Hon. Harold Baer Jr., Author; Robert C. Meade Jr., Editor (American Bar Association)

Written primarily by the late U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baer Jr., this timely practice guide sheds light on the importance of incorporating fairer and more rehabilitative sentences in criminal courts. The final chapter and the editing were completed by attorney Robert C. Meade Jr., who noted that the burden of sentencing weighed heavily on Judge Baer. Not only does the book acknowledge the historically relied-upon purposes and methods of traditional sentencing procedures, but it also attempts to answer the questions regarding the fairness and equality of sentencing, whether the rationales behind incarceration-related sentencing are met, whether rehabilitation can be achieved, and whether society can be safe if less-restrictive sentencing were be integrated. The United States imprisons far more people than any other country, and our prison system is in crisis. Further, there are effects of sentencing that most are unaware of, and Judge Baer had a unique perspective regarding them. He helped launch and presided over SDNY’s first Re-entry Court. This allowed the judge to understand the human aspect of the consequences of sentencing, which offenders would benefit from rehabilitative sentences, and how to effect positive change in sentencing, all while acknowledging the limitations that exist in fully implementing fairer sentencing. Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and corrections officials will all benefit from reading this book that documents Judge Baer’s efforts and wisdom on sentencing.

Street Legal: A Guide to Pre-trial Criminal Procedure for Police, Prosecutors, and Defenders

Professional Practice
Ken Wallentine, Author (American Bar Association)

An updated practice guide on standard pre-trial Criminal Procedure rules written by a leader in the law enforcement community, Chief Ken Wallentine. The guide is easy to digest and well organized in predictable procedural topics, including Stops, Arrests, Searches, Interrogations, and more. Parts of each chapter are presented in a bolded and bulleted format, which makes processing this detailed information quick and easy. The chapters are comprehensive and include a larger number of examples than other standard guides in this area of the law. The two final chapters include updated information on the ever-emerging use of canines during searches and as a method of using force to subdue suspects. However, what is more unique in this book are the appendices, which contain detailed explanations and checklists regarding a few specific and somewhat controversial procedural topics in law enforcement today. These topics include, but are not limited to, Officer Involved Fatalities, In-Custody Deaths, Homicide and Violent Assault First Responder Checklists, and more. Attorneys and law-enforcement officers will be well served by reading this book to stay up-to-date on general criminal procedural topics, but also for the comprehensive list of specific examples included and the supplemental checklists in the appendices.

The Girls Who Fought Crime: The Untold True Story of the Country’s First Female Investigator and Crime-Fighting Squads

Maj. Gen. Mari K. Eder, Author (Sourcebooks)

The fascinating biography of Mary “Mae” Foley, one of the first women to be sworn into the New York City Police Department, at a t Fiction/Historical Fiction ime when female police officers wore long skirts as part of their uniforms and carried guns in their handbags! Not only did Mae Foley fight crime in the 1920s and ’30s, she also paved the way for thousands of women who followed in this crime-fighting career for decades. At the time she joined the police force, she was already a young wife and mother, learning to balance her time between working long shifts in law enforcement and raising her family. She was also light years ahead of her time, believing that the key to successful policing was about calmly mediating relationships, essentially talking and listening rather than coercing behaviors using force, though Mae was a self-described “tough-cookie” who could certainly handle herself physically when needed. Retiring from the NYPD as a detective in the 1940s, Foley had investigated rapists, gangs, Nazis, politicians, mobsters, and killers. In this enjoyable and easy read, author and retired US Army Major General Mari K. Eder brings Foley to life with stories, quotes, newspaper clippings, and photos from Foley’s crime-fighting squad days. In a field that has struggled to overcome sexism, and at a time when women are still fighting for equality, this biography looks back at a dedicated crime-fighter who started it all.

Small Mercies

Denis Lehane, Author (HarperCollins)

From the bestselling author of the novel-turned-movie Mystic River, Denis Lehane’s newest novel may be one of the best thrillers of 2023. While it is a crime thriller, the novel is set in the summer of 1974 in South Boston, during a time when the city had begun implementing forced desegregation of its schools. The city was sweltering under both heat and raging tempers, as protests erupted in response to the busing crisis. At the heart of the plot, a teenaged white girl from the projects goes missing on the same evening that a young Black man is mysteriously found dead on subway tracks. While the events are seemingly unrelated at first, the girl’s desperate mother discovers evidence pointing to her daughter’s possible involvement in the young man’s death, which is being investigated as a hate-crime killing. South Boston in the 1970s was rampant with racism, and it is connected to every aspect of the book. The language and dialogue in the novel certainly reflect its time. Subplots including concepts such as poverty, anguish, desperation, addiction, corruption, and the criminal underworld are also intertwined with the search for the missing girl. Thus, it is evident that though this novel is set decades ago, many of its concepts remain timely today. Despite the intensely upsetting nature of the story, which exists with many crime novels, this book is also thrilling, entertaining, and difficult to put down. It would not be surprising to see this book become a movie in the near future.

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Jolie Zangari

SUNY Nassau Community College

Jolie Zangari is a former prosecutor from the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently a full-time faculty member of the Criminal Justice Department of SUNY Nassau Community College.