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Adam Benforado

New York Times bestselling author of A Minor Revolution and Unfair

  • About Adam Benforado

    Adam Benforado is a professor, writer, and lawyer.  His acclaimed first book, Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice, was a New York Times bestseller, a #1 Audible bestseller, and the recipient of a variety of awards and honors.  In Unfair, Benforado sounds the alarm for pervasive biases corrupting our key legal processes and institutions, and charts a course to reaffirming our ideals. To understand what is really moving the criminal justice system in this time of anxiety, conflict, and disillusionment, you need look no further.

    In his book, A Minor Revolution: How Prioritizing Kids Benefits Us All, Benforado offers a revelatory investigation into how America is failing its children, and an urgent manifesto on why helping them is the best way to improve all of our lives.  Drawing on the latest scientific research into the remarkable capabilities and crucial needs of young people, he makes a powerful case for putting children first, in our budgets and policies, in developing products and enacting laws, in our families and communities.

    An experienced lecturer and discussion leader, Adam Benforado has been invited to speak all around the country about his work at the intersection of law, psychology, and neuroscience. With rare talent to make complex subjects understandable and exciting, he is equally comfortable speaking with experts and non-experts alike. Insightful, provocative, and passionate, no one in the audience leaves thinking the same way.

    A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, he served as a federal appellate law clerk and an attorney at Jenner & Block, before joining Drexel University. He has published numerous scholarly articles, and his op-eds and essays have appeared in a variety of publications including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Philadelphia Inquirer, and Legal Times.

  • Speaking Topics

    A Minor Revolution

    Advances in psychology, neuroscience, sociology, and public health have provided us with an ability unparalleled in human history to understand and protect children. But we have not seized the moment. This is a moral problem, but it’s also an economic and social one: by failing our children today, we doom ourselves in the years ahead. The root cause of nearly every major challenge we face—from crime to poor health to poverty—can be found in our mistreatment of children. But in that sobering truth is also the key to changing our fate as a nation. We must reform our world—our institutions, our laws, our business practices, our parenting—to put children first.

    Let Kids Vote

    Democracy does not work if people directly affected by an election’s outcome are not allowed to participate. Inaction on climate change or educational debt will have little direct impact on someone who is ninety, but potentially life-changing consequences for someone who is fourteen. So why doesn’t that young person get to vote? It’s time to question your assumptions. Drawing together fascinating insights from history, psychology, and law, Benforado makes a compelling case for why we need to recognize that children should have a voice in government—as voters, jurors, and office holders—as well as a greater voice in the home and at school.

    Adopting a Child Primacy Norm

    As a WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission recently concluded, “many enterprises” continue to believe that “considering child well-being in their decisions and actions” is “irrelevant or inimical to their activities.” That mindset among corporate leadership presents a dire threat to young people around the world, but it also significantly inhibits the long-term profitability of companies. In this talk, Benforado offers powerful evidence for why business leaders ought to adopt a new outlook for the sake of shareholders, kids, and all of the rest of us.

    The Future of Criminal Justice

    To address egregious failures in our criminal justice system our best hope is to adopt an evidence-based approach, embracing progress and replacing gut instinct with empirically-derived best practices for our legal actors. But how bold should we be in our reforms? If cognitive biases are a significant source of costly mistakes and deep unfairness, should we rely less on human decision making? In a provocative address, Benforado asks listeners to consider the decades ahead. Will virtual courtrooms be designed to eliminate bias become the norm? Will we one day rely on algorithms to weigh evidence and assess guilt?

    Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice

    Our system of justice is fundamentally broken, but not for the reasons we tend to think. As Benforado argues in this eye-opening, galvanizing lecture, even if the system operated exactly as it was designed to, we would still end up with wrongful convictions, trampled rights, and unequal treatment. This is because the roots of injustice lie not inside the dark hearts of racist police officers, corrupt judges, or dishonest prosecutors, but within the minds of each and every one of us. Weaving together historical examples, scientific studies, and compelling court cases, Benforado shows how our judicial processes fail to uphold our values and protect society’s weakest members. With clarity and passion, he lays out the scope of the legal system’s dysfunction and proposes a wealth of practical reforms that could prevent injustice and help us achieve true fairness and equality before the law.

  • Video

  • Praise for Adam Benforado

    Praise for A Minor Revolution

    A Minor Revolution is a gripping read and an essential companion to Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us. Adam Benforado insightfully chronicles the never-ending cycle of intergenerational harms created from our failure to prioritize children in our public policies. Yet we are left hopeful about the future because his powerfully argued reforms are within our grasp. A Minor Revolution will forever challenge the way you think about America’s treatment of her children.

    Dorothy A. Brown, author of The Whiteness of Wealth

    A Minor Revolution is a major revelation. With a prosecutor’s precision and a reformer’s passion, Adam Benforado has crafted an agenda-setting book—one that offers a startling look at the present and a hopeful path for the future.

    Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Regret, Drive, and A Whole New Mind

    An urgent call for us to rethink our societal priorities and start putting children first. Adam Benforado doesn’t just expose the wrongs done to kids around the world and in our own backyards—he offers a road map for righting them.

    Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast Re:Thinking

    Praise for Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice

    …a well-documented eye-opener.

    San Francisco Book Review

    Unfair succinctly and persuasively recounts cutting-edge research testifying to the faulty and inaccurate procedures that underpin virtually all aspects of our criminal justice system, illustrating many with case studies.

    The Boston Globe

    A law professor sounds an explosive alarm on the hidden unfairness of our legal this important, deeply researched debut, [Benforado] draws on findings from psychology and neuroscience to show that police, jurors, and judges are generally guided by intuitive feelings rather than hard facts in making assessments...The new research challenges basic assumptions about most key aspects of the legal system, including eyewitness memory, jury deliberations, police procedures, and punishment...An original and provocative argument that upends our most cherished beliefs about providing equal justice under the law.

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    As gripping as a Grisham novel, only it isn't fiction. With captivating cases and razor-sharp science, Adam Benforado puts the justice system on trial and makes a bulletproof argument that it's fundamentally broken. This extraordinary book is a must-read for every judge, lawyer, detective, and concerned citizen in America.

    Adam Grant, Wharton School of Business, and author of Give and Take

    This thoughtful and penetrating study raises many deeply troubling questions, and even more important, offers humane and very reasonable approaches to cure some of the ills of a system of 'criminal injustice' that should not be tolerated.

    Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, MIT

    Adam Benforado has written a book that will make you rethink everything you believe about crime and punishment. He gracefully blends science and storytelling to make a powerful case that our failure to bring the realities of human psychology into the courtroom has led to profound injustice. Enthralling and unsettling in equal measure, Unfair might be the most important book you read this year.

    Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive
  • Books by Adam Benforado

  • Media About Adam Benforado

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Adam Benforado travels from Philadelphia, PA

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