Reviewed: JED S. RAKOFF, WHY THE INNOCENT PLEAD GUILTY AND THE GUILTY GO FREE: AND OTHER PARADOXES OF OUR BROKEN LEGAL SYSTEM, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux 2021. Pp. 208. $27.00 Hardcover.
As its title suggests, Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free is a wide-ranging critique of our criminal justice system. While it is hardly the first, it offers a number of distinctive insights. Most of the now voluminous work on this topic is written by scholars, policy analysts, or journalists and is addressed to the legislature or the executive. This certainly makes sense. External observers are well- positioned to critique a system that punishes without purpose, and the major determinants of its dysfunction are the legislature that enacts the criminal law and the executive that enforces it. In contrast, the author of this book, Jed S. Rakoff, is a sitting federal judge, and he provides a specifically judicial perspective. This appears in at least two of the book’s most notable features: its juxtaposition of its subject matter and its discussion of the way that general trends in our criminal law impact the work of judges.