The number of Americans arrested, brought to court, and incarcerated has skyrocketed in recent decades. Criminal defendants come from all races and economic walks of life, but they experience punishment in vastly different ways. Privilege and Punishment examines how racial and class inequalities are embedded in the attorney-client relationship, providing a devastating portrait of inequality and injustice within and beyond the criminal courts.
Matthew Clair conducted extensive fieldwork in the Boston court system, attending criminal hearings and interviewing defendants, lawyers, judges, police officers, and probation officers. In this eye-opening book, he uncovers how privilege and inequality play out in criminal court interactions. When disadvantaged defendants try to learn their legal rights and advocate for themselves, lawyers and judges often silence, coerce, and punish them. Privileged defendants, who are more likely to trust their defense attorneys, delegate authority to their lawyers, defer to judges, and are rewarded for their compliance. Clair shows how attempts to exercise legal rights often backfire on the poor and on working-class people of color, and how effective legal representation alone is no guarantee of justice.
Superbly written and powerfully argued, Privilege and Punishment draws needed attention to the injustices that are perpetuated by the attorney-client relationship in today’s criminal courts, and describes the reforms needed to correct them.
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the Outstanding Book Award, Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Section of the American Sociological Association
- Winner of the Edwin H. Sutherland Book Award, Law and Society Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems
- Matthew Clair, Co-Winner of the Michael Harrington Award, Poverty, Class, and Inequality Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems
- Winner of the Media for a Just Society Book Award, Evident Change
- Winner of a Gold Medal in Current Events, Independent Publisher Book Awards
- Co-Winner of the Max Weber Book Award, Organizations, Occupations, and Work Section of the American Sociological Association
- Co-Winner of the Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award, Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities of the American Sociological Association
- Co-Winner of the Albert J. Reiss Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award, Crime, Law, and Deviance Section of the American Sociological Association
- Honorable Mention for the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award, Race, Gender, and Class Section of the American Sociological Association
- Finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems