He offered an overview of the ways the criminal justice system affects African Americans, starting by contrasting different definitions of the problems and moving on to describe a range of historical responses and current abolitionist strategies.
Professor Forman described how, while working as a public defender early in his career, he saw many of African-American prosecutors and judges using the same history that motivated him to become a public defender to instead justify incarceration of his clients, and he wanted to understand why.
For me, it was telling that story of the criminal system over the last 50 years through the lens of African-American prosecutors, police chiefs, judges legislators, citizen activists, everyday citizens – trying to figure out, through their voices, what was going on and how was it that at least some of them had come to think that these policies that the government, that the United States as a nation was pursuing made sense. Were they tricked? Were they coerced? What was the story?