Jennifer Reese
April 04, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Courtroom 302

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Steve Bogira
publisher
Knopf
genre
Nonfiction

We gave it a B

Journalist Steve Bogira spent a year in Chicago’s Cook County Criminal Court-house, the nation’s busiest felony court, and stumbled on a mother lode of squalor and suffering. Focusing on Courtroom 302, with Judge Dan Local-lo presiding, Bogira describes an unending stream of sad sacks and thugs (overwhelmingly poor, overwhelmingly black) brought in for crimes that range from stealing a bottle of Downy fabric softener to holding a gram of heroin to shooting a cabbie in the head with a .357. For the accused, room 302 becomes the gateway into a criminal justice system that, as described by Bogira, operates like an efficient, ruthless, and unsophisticated machine. This fascinating book teems with individual human dramas, but in attempting to capture the sheer quantity, Bogira never zeroes in on a single case to hook the reader emotionally.

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