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Latina Scholar’s Book ‘Crook County’ Nominated for NAACP Image Award

A Latina scholar who wrote a national bestseller about the injustices in Chicago's Cook County criminal court system has been nominated for a prestigious award.

Criminologist Dr. Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve's book “Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America’s Largest Criminal Court” outlines racial divides in what should be a "colorblind" criminal justice system. The book has been nominated for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for a Debut Author.

"In writing the book 'Crook County,' I tried to give voice to the many black and Latino defendants, victims and families racially abused in our criminal courts," Van Cleve told NBC Latino. "This nomination, from the NAACP Image Awards, truly honors their experience — the citizens and people made most vulnerable by our criminal justice system."

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Van Cleve researched the Cook County criminal justice system for 10 years before writing the book. As a clerk in court system, she worked for both the prosecutor's office and then for the public defender's office. She documented how some minority defendants in Chicago were referred to in racial slurs, and she cites times where fabricated reports were overlooked.

Comedy Central's new Daily Show host Trevor Noah and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker are also nominated for the award.

Van Cleve told NBC Latino in an earlier interview that when she wrote the book, she, "wrote in fear."

"I researched it in fear… and it was mostly because as one of the only people of color in this court system, in this setting where mostly the prosecutors and judges were white and all the defendants were people of color, the idea that I could collect data on how people were being racially abused and then actually go and tell that publicly was quite intimidating," she said.

"So I think it was a journey for me to reflect on what I was willing to put forth. And I hope that those stories come forth in the book."

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