Latest criminal justice news, updates and commentary 1.11.24
Happy new year! I’m happy to bring you links to the stories, reports, and other materials I’ve been reading and listening to. If you’ve come across any really interesting articles I’ve missed, please share in the comments.
Top reads: Incredible story of a surprise win in a PA election where the candidate campaigned on reducing jail deaths; FWD.us’s new report on how much progress has been achieved in reducing incarceration since 2008; how activists took on the prison phone industry and won.
Get smart on
Medical examiners, whose work can be much less reliable than you’d think;
Police training, which has a track record of encouraging officers to be extremely violent;
How community policing can go wrong.
If you’ve never seen Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next, I highly recommend this short section focused on the Norwegian prison system.
The Guardian covered the burgeoning realm of newspapers, podcasts, and other media produced for the public by people in prison.
To learn some ideas on ‘what replaces prison’ to create safety for communities, check out the One Million Experiments podcast.
Solutions and Wins
The Los Angeles Office of Diversion and Reentry is figuring out how to address the toughest mental health needs at scale, with the county expanding their capacity by 1,000 beds last year. Given the severe challenges we are seeing in NYC and other places, we should learn from ODR.
The New York Times covered the steep drop in crime around the country in 2023.
A new report from FWD.us (an outstanding policy shop that deserves more funder attention!) shows us the big picture on incarceration. While there’s a lot of work to do, so much progress has happened – the number of people in prison has dropped by 24% since 2009.
A veto-proof majority of the NYC City Council passed bills to ban solitary confinement in NYC jails and require NYPD officers to document every investigative encounter.
Dwell Magazine featured a beautiful spread of photos and uplifting narrative about a new reentry center in Louisiana. I’m especially interested in how this project is featured so prominently in a mainstream architecture and design magazine, not a ‘justice’ magazine. I checked in with local organizers, and they say the project is excellent and hope that there will be more like it. As a companion piece, check out the People First Reentry report.
Organizer, advocate, and formerly incarcerated leader Saleem Holbrook was selected as one of the most impactful Philadelphia citizens of 2023. His Pittsburgh-based colleague Tanisha Long was selected for a similar 2023 activism award for her work to improve jail conditions.
An L.A. County program reduced the number of people who returned to incarceration by 17% through exclusive use of wraparound services– much higher success than other CA programs.
A study of overdose prevention centers in NYC, where people can get clean needles and use drugs on site, showed they did not increase crime or disorder in the vicinity.
Congratulations to our brilliant colleague Crystal Hayling on her retirement. She was always a step or two ahead.
Reports and investigations
The New Jersey state Comptroller published a report on “The High Price of Unregulated Private Police Training to New Jersey.” They found that private trainings paid for by police departments were teaching bad law, undermined reform initiatives, fostered harassment, and much more.
Debtors’ prisons are supposed to have been abolished 200 years ago. But we still have them!
The Center for Just Journalism launched its curriculum resource library. Their mission is to educate journalists and ensure that reporting on public safety is rooted in facts.
A group of news outlets teamed up to produce this deep dive into prosecutorial misconduct in Cuyahoga County, OH (Cleveland), where prosecutors withheld evidence that could have proven defendants innocent. This year, Matthew Ahn is challenging the incumbent District Attorney, saying he wants to reform these and other bad practices.
Megan Stevenson published a law review article on randomized controlled trials in criminal justice and the nature of social change.
The DC Justice Lab has posted a reference library with research and other tools about DC law.
Wall of Shame
Target, CVS and similar stores claimed loudly and repeatedly that their profits had been devastated and they were forced to close stores due to rampant retail theft. These were lies designed to hide their poor performance.
True crime ‘star’ prosecutor Kelly Seigler is accused of framing people.
Houston is shipping out hundreds of people to jails Mississippi and Louisiana, far from their homes and families and living in terrible conditions. Many have died, with no oversight.
New York jails have been sending people who haven’t been convicted of a crime to be housed atstate prisons like Attica, on the basis of their mental health diagnosis.
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