Unfair Book Summary - Unfair Book explained in key points
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Unfair summary

Adam Benforado

The New Science of Criminal Justice

4.1 (16 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

"Unfair" by Adam Benforado discusses how our justice system is flawed due to unconscious biases. It exposes how what is perceived as fairness is often just a mirage, and how these flaws impact our society.

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    Summary of 12 key ideas

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    Hastily assigning the wrong labels to people can lead to unfair treatment.

    Can a vomit stain make the difference between life and death? It did for New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum. After he was attacked on the street, passersby who found him lying unconscious on the curb spotted a vomit stain on his jacket. They thus assumed he was just another drunk and not in critical condition.

    Tragically, David ultimately died from head injuries, and things might well have turned out differently if he hadn’t been mislabeled.

    Unfortunately, these kinds of mistakes aren’t rare. Humans are quick to jump to conclusions based on scant evidence, largely due to the interplay between two main processes that order our brains.

    First, the automatic process takes in a scene and forms rapid conclusions based on the evidence presented, disregarding missing pieces. Second, the deliberative mental process works through information more diligently and can override these initial impressions.

    In David’s case, firefighters, cops and hospital staff all attributed the vomit stain to drunkenness via the automatic process. Without deferring to the deliberative process, they all discounted the possibility that he was actually in need of urgent medical attention.

    This story demonstrates the fact that how we label victims affects how their cases are handled.

    Consider this neurological study: when people looked at photos of Olympic athletes, middle-class Americans or the disabled, the region of their brain involved with human interaction was activated. But, when asked to look at photos of homeless people and addicts, participants registered no activity in that area; instead, their brain activity corresponded with feelings of disgust.

    This study confirms a sad fact: most of us don’t regard those who are desperately down and out as human beings with feelings and needs. Instead, we tend to view alcoholism and similar disorders as choices, or voluntary behaviors. This tendency is called moral distancing, and it leads us to treat substance abusers differently.

    Clearly, we need to avoid assigning damaging labels to others. In the next blink, you’ll find out how.

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    What is Unfair about?

    Unfair (2015) outlines the major flaws inherent to the United States’ justice system. In addition to the unreliability of eyewitness testimony or the arbitrary nature of many judges’ decisions, every actor in the entire justice system – cops, lawyers, jurors and judges alike – is fundamentally, yet unconsciously, biased. Ultimately, the author argues that addressing these blind biases is the key to reforming our justice system.

    Unfair Review

    Unfair (2015) sheds light on the flaws and biases of our justice system, making it an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the shortcomings of our legal system. Here's why this book stands out:

    • With its thorough research and compelling case studies, it exposes the hidden biases and systemic issues that plague our justice system.
    • By presenting stories and examples that highlight the inherent inequality and injustice in the criminal justice system, the book challenges readers to question long-held beliefs and assumptions.
    • Through its thought-provoking analysis, the book invites readers to reflect on the need for reforms and the importance of pursuing justice for all.

    Best quote from Unfair

    The labels we give victims can make a big difference in how their cases are handled.

    —Adam Benforado
    example alt text

    Who should read Unfair?

    • Anyone interested in law, ethics and society
    • Lawyers and law students curious about the foundations of the US justice system
    • Anyone with aspirations to change the world for the better

    About the Author

    Adam Benforado is an associate professor of law at Drexel University. He served as a clerk on the United States Court of Appeals and worked as an attorney at Jenner & Block. His scholarly articles, op-eds and essays have appeared in various publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Emory Law Journal.

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    Unfair FAQs 

    What is the main message of Unfair?

    Unfair explores the flaws of our justice system and calls for a more just and equitable approach.

    How long does it take to read Unfair?

    The reading time for Unfair varies, but it usually takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Unfair a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Unfair is a thought-provoking book that sheds light on the faults in our legal system. It's definitely worth a read!

    Who is the author of Unfair?

    Adam Benforado is the author of Unfair.

    What to read after Unfair?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Unfair, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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