James Forman, Jr. is a Professor of Law at Yale University and the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Locking Up Our Own.” James was the keynote speaker at The Minneapolis Foundation’s Bail Reform Summit on October 18, 2019. On that day, he sat down with Chanda to talk about how his parents influenced his life, how intentions don’t always match impact, and the lessons to keep in mind when reforming the criminal legal system.
James Forman, Jr. graduated from Roosevelt High School in Atlanta, Brown University, and Yale Law School. He worked as a law clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court. After clerking, he joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., where for six years he represented juveniles and adults in felony and misdemeanor cases.
At Yale Law School, where he has taught since 2011, James teaches Constitutional Law and a course called Race, Class, and Punishment. Last year he took his teaching behind prison walls, offering a seminar called Inside-Out Prison Exchange: Issues in Criminal Justice, which brought together, in the same classroom, 10 Yale Law students and 10 men incarcerated in a CT prison.
James has written many law review articles, in addition to op-eds and essays for the New York Times, the Atlantic, the New Republic, the Nation, and the Washington Post. His first book is the critically acclaimed Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (2017) which explores how decisions made by black leaders, often with the best of intentions, contributed to disproportionately incarcerating black and brown people.