Synopses & Reviews
An enlightening, intensely researched examination of violations of the constitutional principles that preserve individual rights and civil liberties from courtrooms to classrooms.
With telling anecdote and detail, Pulitzer Prize–winner David K. Shipler explores the territory where the Constitution meets everyday America, where legal compromises—before and since 9/11—have undermined the criminal justice system’s fairness, enhanced the executive branch’s power over citizens and immigrants, and impaired some of the freewheeling debate and protest essential in a constitutional democracy.
Shipler demonstrates how the violations tamper with America’s safety in unexpected ways. While a free society takes risks to observe rights, denying rights creates other risks. A suspect’s right to silence may deprive police of a confession, but a forced confession is often false. Honoring the right to a jury trial may be cumbersome, but empowering prosecutors to coerce a guilty plea means evidence goes untested, the charge unproved. An investigation undisciplined by the Bill of Rights may jail the innocent and leave the guilty at large and dangerous. Weakened constitutional rules allow the police to waste precious resources on useless intelligence gathering and frivolous arrests. The criminal courts act less as impartial adjudicators than as conveyor belts from street to prison in a system that some disillusioned participants have nicknamed “McJustice.”
There is, always, a human cost. Shipler shows us victims of torture and abuse—not only suspected terrorists at the hands of the CIA but also murder suspects interrogated by the Chicago police. We see a poverty-stricken woman forced to share an attorney with her drug dealer boyfriend and sentenced to six years in prison when the conflict of interest turns her lawyer against her. We meet high school students suspended for expressing unwelcome political opinions. And we see a pregnant immigrant deported, after years of living legally in the country, for allegedly stealing a lottery ticket.
Often shocking, yet ultimately idealistic, Rights at Risk shows us the shadows of America where the civil liberties we rightly take for granted have been eroded—and summons us to reclaim them.
"In this fascinating and provocative account, scholar and former New York Times reporter Shipler (The Working Poor) investigates the current state of the average American's rights, and probes the more extreme boundaries where constitutional freedoms often slip. We meet an American terror suspect abused and held indefinitely without access to attorneys, three Rwandan prisoners who falsely confess to FBI agents to avoid further torture by interrogators in their own country, a 17-year-old Long Island boy who does the same after a cop lies to him about his father's last words, and legal immigrants forced out of the country over petty infractions for which they'd years ago paid the fines and done the time. We watch as prosecutors, according to the author, armed with unfair sentencing guidelines, stack the deck against those who maintain their innocence rather than plea bargain, or who can't afford adequate legal counsel in an overtaxed public defense system. Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens find their rights to free speech and privacy eroded as biased restrictions curtail political demonstrations and keep students from voicing dissent, and as post September 11 fears usher in a new era of warrantless wiretapping and government surveillance. This book is a must for readers who want to stay informed of their rights in the shadowy territory where the government's need for order and security overstep constitutional protections. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the best-selling author of The Working Poor,
a powerfully enlightening new book: an exhaustively researched examination of everyday violations of law, justice, individual rights, and civil liberties before and since 9/11.
Rights at Risk shows us the "other America," a shadow world where the civil liberties we rightly take for granted have been compromised, and summons us to reclaim them. David Shipler shows us victims of torture and coercion--from suspected terrorists to a teenager in Oakland--whose confessions (sometimes false) under extreme duress are used against them in court. We see a poverty-stricken woman, forced to share an attorney with her drug dealer boyfriend and sentenced to life in prison when the conflict of interest turns her lawyer against her. And we see an Iraqi refugee, arrested and sent to court for immigration violations only to have his case dismissed when research reveals that the charge against him was utterly inapplicable. Often shocking, yet ultimately hopeful, Rights at Risk is an essential assessment of America's legal system from one of our most thoughtful writers.
About the Author
DAVID K. SHIPLER, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, worked for The New York Times from 1966 to 1988, reporting from New York, Saigon, Moscow, and Jerusalem before serving as chief diplomatic correspondent in Washington, D.C. He has also written for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of five other books--Russia: Broken Idols, Solemn Dreams; Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land (which won the Pulitzer); A Country of Strangers: Blacks and White in America; The Working Poor: Invisible in America; and The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties. He has taught at Princeton University, at American University in Washington, D.C., and at Dartmouth College.