Jean Love Cush, who worked in the Philadelphia District Attorney's office, takes a provocative look at the criminal justice system as it applies to African-American males in her novel, "Endangered." (Amistad/258 pages)
Fifteen-year old Malik Williams is accused of killing his friend, Troy Barnes, in what appears to be another senseless inner city shooting.
His single mother, Janae, finds herself trapped in a legal quandary. Without the financial means to secure a decent defense lawyer, she is forced into the public defender's office.
Renown human rights attorney, Roger Whitford, of the Center for Protection of Human Rights, agrees to take the case, pro bono, as a platform for advancing his theory that African-American males are an endangered species and merit protection.
But Malik's mother, Janae, finds this notion, however well-intentioned, disgusting. Her son is not an animal and she wants the world to know the real Malik - a gentle boy who could not commit murder.
The single mother is determined not to let her son be swallowed up in the court system and become another crime statistic. "Endangered" is a powerful novel inspired by an all too real tragedy - the perilous state of inner city African-American men.
Into this story of Malik Williams, she weaves in alarming facts regarding black men and the legal system. One-third of black men between the ages 16 and 24 are either awaiting trial, in prison or on probation or parole.
Black juveniles are disproportionately waived into adult court where the penalties are far more severe. The tendency of zealous prosecutors to over-charge crimes to obtain a conviction through a plea bargain is real and disturbing.
The author's suggestion that the American judicial system needs an overhaul may be revealed in one final sobering statistic - while America has but five percent of the world's population, she has nearly one-fourth of the world's prison population.
That is a statistic that cannot be sustained.