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Publisher's Summary

A revelatory account of the misdemeanor machine that unjustly brands millions of Americans as criminals

Punishment Without Crime offers an urgent new interpretation of inequality and injustice in America by examining the paradigmatic American offense: the lowly misdemeanor. Based on extensive original research, legal scholar Alexandra Natapoff reveals the inner workings of a massive petty offense system that produces over 13 million cases each year. People arrested for minor crimes are swept through courts where defendants often lack lawyers, judges process cases in mere minutes, and nearly everyone pleads guilty. This misdemeanor machine starts punishing people long before they are convicted; it punishes the innocent; and it punishes conduct that never should have been a crime. As a result, vast numbers of Americans - most of them poor and people of color - are stigmatized as criminals, impoverished through fines and fees, and stripped of drivers' licenses, jobs, and housing.

For too long, misdemeanors have been ignored. But they are crucial to understanding our punitive criminal system and our widening economic and racial divides.

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2018 Alexandra Natapoff (P)2018 Basic Books

Critic Reviews

"Natapoff's presentation of her meticulously researched data is impressive.... A searing, groundbreaking study of criminology and sociology." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

"Intelligently written, tightly argued, and often heartbreaking, Natapoff's account is a worthy companion to Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"This important book completely upends the criminal justice conversation. Natapoff documents dark truths about the misdemeanor process - how it forces the innocent to plead guilty, how it disregards basic legal rights, and how it inflicts deep injustice. Her insights inspire both outrage and innovation. Punishment Without Crime provides a terrific new understanding of a flawed criminal system, and it offers a much-needed path toward the fair and just criminal system America deserves. A necessary book for our times." (Barry Scheck, cofounder of the Innocence Project)

What listeners say about Punishment Without Crime

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-08-2019

This Book Should Be A Required Read For All

Amazing and necessary read for all individuals doing criminal injustice work. Law students, sociology, political science, public policy and psychology should be required to read this as well as judges, lawyers, paralegals, police depts, sheriff depts and prosecutors.

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  • Jennifer
  • 15-04-2021

Very informative

This book really lays out really just how destructive misdemeanors are in this country and how it shapes communities. Communities that are predominantly people of color and also poor communities. I feel like majority of these laws are put into place to purposely destroy those community by making sure that these people had records. It clogged up our courts and filled up our jails. It forced people to lose their jobs, their housing, Sometimes their children. Some people think it’s just a misdemeanor but it’s so much more and can be so devastating and destructive to so many. Again that’s why voting is so important especially at the local and state level. Time to make some real changes in our communities.

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  • Colton Amos
  • 12-03-2020

Informative and very interesting!

educational and relatable for everyone. definitely recommend. the stories helped me understand and it really sheds light on our misdemeanor system.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-01-2020

sometimes we don't think!

When reading about crime and punishment one never thinks about the misdemeanor system.
This work certainly brings that to life.

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  • Mary Ellen
  • 24-10-2019

Don't wait until this happens you..get in the know

Loved it! Narrator very easy to listen to and caring. She is a thoughtful human.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-06-2019

American "Justice"?

Everyone should listen to this book before commenting on how "great" this justice system is.

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  • Jenny
  • 05-05-2019

Insightful

Narrator was great. Loved her passion & story telling skills. Everyone in the court system should buy this book.

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