Prosecutor’s Reading List


California’s Criminal Justice System by Christine L. Gardiner and Stacy L. Mallicoat. It’s basic, and who bothers to learn the basics these days? The basics are invaluable.

Thinking About Crime by James Q. Wilson. Perhaps the best-written criminology book I’ve ever read. His discussions on incapacitating criminals and the futility of rehabilitation are particularly good.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The Anatomy of Violence by Adrian Raine. Buy it for the interesting crime trivia, stay for the baffling brain anatomy.

Revealing Criminology by Maureen Outlaw. An introduction to criminology. Big picture facts about crime are interesting, 200-year-old theories that are no longer used? Not so much.

Call of Duty by Lt. Lynn “Buck” Compton, a war hero and baseball player who seems to know everyone.

Locked In, by John Pfaff

Locking Up Our Own by James Forman Jr., who describes crime and punishment in black America.

True Crime

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy. The best true-crime book I’ve ever read. It touches on virtually every important issue in modern criminology.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death by Kermit Alexander, a former football pro who seems to know everyone.


Explaining Social Deviance by Paul Root Wolpe

History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons

The Great Trials of World History by Douglas O. Linder

Academic Papers

The Aims of the Criminal Law by Henry Hart. Originally written for law students, this is an important look at the basic ideas of criminal law.

What Works? – Questions and Answers about Prison Reform by Robert Martinson. The paper found that nothing works, although the author later qualified his views.

Mental Illness in Prison: Inmate Rehabilitation & Correctional Officers in Crisis by SpearIt. I spent more time trying to figure out who SpearIt was than reading the actual article.

Shorter Works and Articles

The Coming of the Superpredators by John DiLulio.  You can see that this guy was mostly wrong just by looking at this one chart.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde

On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth and On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas de Quincey.

American Legal History: A Very Short Introduction by G. Edward White

The Warrior Ethos by Steven Pressfield


Life of the Law with Nancy Mullane. The gold standard of podcasts about the law in general, not criminal law in particular. But the producers often discuss criminal law and have a soft spot for San Quentin inmates.

Serial by Sarah Koenig.  I listened to seasons 1 and 3.

Off the Block by George Lavender.  Short but sweet.

Caught by Kai Wright.

More Perfect with Jad Abumrad.  Another great WNYC podcast, but not usually about criminal law.

Running from COPS with Dan Taberski. Attempted take-down of the long-running reality show. Taberski, makes an interesting podcast but fails to demonstrate that the TV show, or the police, are the horrible racist mess he imagines them to be.

Fresh Out – Life After the Penitentiary. A podcast by former inmates that provides great insight into their minds, the language they use, and even how the prisons run.

The O.J. Simpson Trial

Every California prosecutor should understand this case. There’s a lot of material out there.

Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark, a frustrated project manager.

Outrage by Vincent Bugliosi, who isn’t having any of Marcia Clark’s excuses.

Mexican Mafia Materials

The Black Hand by Chris Blatchford. A detailed autobiography of Rene “Boxer” Enriquez, a Mexican Mafia hitman who turned into a prosecution witness.

Governance and Prison Gangs by David Skarbek. How did a group of 150-300 men, locked away in state prison, come to control the drug trade of virtually every Hispanic street gang south of Bakersfield? Skarbeck tells the economic story.

Inside Out: The Challenge of Prison-Based Criminal Organizations by Benjamin Lessing. What happens when prison gangs can control political life on the outside?