Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal

Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal Review

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.

Title:Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal

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    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • Booknblues

    I often like to start the year reading something light and positive, but this year I did the opposite. Reading Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes...

  • Chuck

    4.25 starsAnother book full of important info everyone should read and probably won't....

  • Jonathan Blanks

    Full review will be in the forthcoming issue of “Democracy: A Journal of Ideas”...

  • George Lichman

    The book addressed many very pressing issues in the misdemeanor system that need immediate attention: excessive fees, lack of adequate resources—especially defense counsel—privatization of jails a...

  • Adam

    This is required reading. Natapoff does an impeccable job of balancing policy details, philosophical underpinnings, and recommendations for structural changes necessary in our criminal justice system....

  • Heidi

    Overall: Depressing but necessary. If you've ever gone to court for a traffic ticket and seen the difference between how a judge handles that case and the trial you see on tv, you begin to see what Na...

  • Savanah

    Wonderful book about the issues facing our criminal justice system. Another great companion to a book like Locked in or New Jim Crow, but with a focus on the misdemeanor side of the criminal justice s...

  • Tad

    If you are looking for something light and positive, this is definitely not the right book for that. This is a very thorough and detailed look at the misdemeanor system and all the ways it unfairly tr...

  • Josh

    This is a very difficult read. Natapoff does a great job of breaking down the issues for a mainstream audience, but it is harrowing to read of the ridiculous misdemeanors for which people have been ar...

  • Benjamin

    An author with profound respect for the social purposes of criminal justice, a clear and expressive voice, and a deep knowledge--personal and researched-- of the excesses of our misdemeanor system fai...