Eric Lotke started with a life of crime. When he was in elementary school he entertained himself by breaking into his school over the weekends (taking nothing, messing nothing up, and closing up tight behind him). Many years later as a lawyer and policy advocate, he worked to improve the criminal justice system. His writings include The Real War on Crime and multiple studies that basically say the same thing: We lock up too many people (especially people of color) and don’t do enough to keep people safe. His legal advocacy included groundbreaking lawsuits against private prison companies (CCA in Youngstown OH) and over the exploitative cost of phone calls from prison. He also helped manage treatment programs for sex offenders and victims, and violence prevention programs in DC schools. His original research about how the Census Bureau counts people in prison – where they are locked up, not where they come from – has led to changes in nine states so far.
After criminal justice, Eric moved to economic justice. First, he became research director at the Campaign for America’s Future, a major progressive think-tank in Washington DC. He published headline research on subjects ranging from health care to clean energy to manufacturing.
More recently, he moved into organized labor, first with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU, “Justice for Janitors”) and then with the National Education Association (NEA). He worked with state and local government budgets, and developed special expertise on matters of privatization and contracting out. Eric Lotke’s books include Making Manna, The Real War on Crime, and 2044: The Problem isn’t Big Brother, it’s Big Brother, Inc.
Before any of that, as readers of Making Manna may guess, he earned his living as a chef.