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Book talk with Mona Lynch, author of Hard Bargains: The Coercive Power of Drug Laws in Federal Court
Hard Bargains offers a critical analytic link between the well-told, front-end story of the national politics that produced and sustain punitive federal drug laws, and the well-documented back-end story of their consequences. By shifting focus to the prosecutorial and adjudication practices responsible for producing federally sentenced drug defendants, the book tells a story about the realization of legal power: how its possibilities and potentials are imagined, how it is deployed to compel guilty pleas and induce lengthy prison sentences, and how it is reshaped both as the official rules change and as a matter of local dynamics. Drawing on comparative field research conducted in three federal court districts, Lynch examines how federal prosecutors wield their considerable discretion to overwhelm defendants’ ability to assert their rights. While she finds distinct norms around plea negotiation and adjudication practices in each district, the sheer punitive power of federal drug laws creates enormous pressure on defendants in all of the locales to waive opportunities to test evidence or go to trial.
Co-sponsored by The Fair Punishment Project