Noted author, law professor James Forman Jr. to speak at Penn State on Jan. 31

January 16, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — James Forman Jr., professor of law at Yale Law School, will present a free lecture titled “Can the Criminal Justice System Ever Be Just?” at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31, in 112 Kern Building at University Park.

A graduate of Atlanta’s Roosevelt High School, Brown University, and Yale Law School, Forman was a law clerk for Judge William Norris of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the Supreme Court of the United States. After clerking, he joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., where for six years he represented both juveniles and adults charged with crimes.

During his time as a public defender, Forman became frustrated with the lack of education and job training opportunities for his clients; so, in 1997, he and David Domenici started the Maya Angelou Public Charter School, an alternative school for school dropouts and youth who previously had been arrested. A decade later, Maya Angelou Charter School also agreed to run the school inside D.C.’s juvenile prison, which until then had been considered an abysmal failure.

Forman taught at Georgetown Law from 2003 until 2011, when he joined the Yale faculty. He teaches and writes in the areas of criminal procedure and criminal law policy, constitutional law, juvenile justice, and education law and policy. His first book, “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” explores the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration on people of color but also points out that the war on crime that began in the 1970s was supported by many African-American leaders in the nation’s urban centers. The book — longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award and named a "Best Book of the Year" by numerous publications — enriches people’s understanding of why society became so punitive and offers important lessons to anyone concerned about the future of race and the criminal justice system in this country.

Forman’s visit is part of the “Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance” Sawyer Seminar Series sponsored by the Penn State Department of African American Studies. “Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance” seeks to identify and examine ways that marginalized racial subjects in the Americas disrupt the logic of disposability creatively, politically and intellectually using practices of organized resistance and an everyday politics of refusal. The series is funded largely through a grant provided by the Andrew W. Mellow Foundation.

Additional information about Forman and his book can be found at More information about the “Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance” Sawyer Seminar Series can be found at or by contacting Cynthia Young, associate professor and head of the Department of African American Studies, at

  • James Forman Jr.

    Noted author and Yale Law School professor James Forman Jr. will present a lecture titled "Can the Criminal Justice System Ever Be Just?" at 6 p.m. on Jan. 31 in 112 Kern Building.

    IMAGE: photo provided

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 16, 2018