David Cole is the National Legal Director of the ACLU and the Honorable George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at the Georgetown University Law Center. (June 2017)

IN THE REVIEW

The Truth About Our Prison Crisis

A mother talking with her son through a window at the Florida Women’s Reception Center, a prison in Ocala, Florida, April 2016; photograph by Isadora Kosofsky from her series ‘Still My Mother, Still My Father,’ which documents parent–child visits in Florida prisons. An exhibition of her work will be on view at the Davis Orton Gallery, Hudson, New York, June 24–July 23, 2017.

Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform

by John F. Pfaff

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

by James Forman Jr.
Few claims about contemporary American society are more widely accepted on the left than that the dramatic growth of our prisons and jails has been driven by the war on drugs. In July 2015, President Barack Obama maintained that “the real reason our prison population is so high” is that …

Trump’s Constitutional Crisis

Attorney General Jeff Sessions with now-fired FBI Director James Comey at a meeting of federal law enforcement officials at the Justice Department, Washington, D.C., February 2017
James Comey is no saint. But thanks to Donald Trump, he is now a martyr. On May 9, in a twist that would have seemed far-fetched even on House of Cards, President Trump fired Comey as director of the FBI on the recommendation of Jeff Sessions, his attorney general. According …

Trump’s Travel Bans—Look Beyond the Text

Protesters demonstrating against President Trump’s first travel ban, Los Angeles International Airport, January 2017
Imagine if a mayoral candidate promised repeatedly during a campaign that he would keep African-Americans out of the town, and then, upon election, adopted a policy barring entry from seven cities with populations that were 90 percent African-American. Suppose, further, that after that order was struck down, he issued a new one barring entry from six majority-black cities, and his aides stated publicly that it was only a technical adjustment. Would anyone doubt that the policy discriminated on the basis of race? Would we worry about chilling candidate speech? Substitute Muslim for African-American, country for city, and president for mayor, and you’ve got Trump’s executive orders.

NYR DAILY

More Dangerous Than Trump

Attorney General Jeff Sessions standing at the secondary border fence between the US and Mexico, San Diego, California, April 21, 2017

On May 20, Jeff Sessions completed his first hundred days as attorney general. His record thus far shows a determined effort to dismantle the Justice Department’s protections of civil rights and civil liberties. Reversing course from the Obama Justice Department on virtually every front, he is seeking to return us not just to the pre-Obama era but to the pre-civil-rights era.

Trump’s Constitutional Crisis

Attorney General Jeff Sessions with now-fired FBI Director James Comey at a meeting of federal law enforcement officials at the Justice Department, Washington, D.C., February 2017

On May 9, in a twist that would have seemed far-fetched even on House of Cards, President Trump fired James Comey as director of the FBI on the recommendation of Jeff Sessions, his attorney general. The notion that Trump and Sessions took action against Comey because of his unfairness to Clinton may be the most brazen effort at “fake news” or “alternative facts” yet from a president who has shown no reluctance to lie, even and especially when the truth is plain for everyone to see.

Poetry in the Courtroom

Gavin Grimm, Gloucester, Virginia, August 22, 2016

On Friday, April 7, Judge Andre Davis of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit resorted to a poem by the Palestinian-American writer Naomi Shihab Nye, in an extraordinary opinion praising a young man who fought for his rights—and lost. Judge Davis’s opinion attests to the courage of Gavin Grimm for standing up for his rights, even as the court denied his request for vindication of those rights.

It’s Still a Muslim Ban

A custodian working under a portrait of an immigrant from the early twentieth century at Ellis Island, New York, January 31, 2017

Trump has issued a replacement executive order, one that his lawyers evidently felt would be easier to defend. Importantly, the new order still shares the central defect of its predecessor: it is a “Muslim ban” in intent and effect. It would be difficult to imagine a stronger case of impermissible religious discrimination than this one. The president has admitted his purpose on multiple occasions.