With justice systems across the country scrambling to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot of talk about what justice is going to look like when the virus ends. But what has the response actually consisted of, and is there any reason to anticipate a "new normal" will emerge? On New Thinking, New York University law professor Rachel Barkow explains her skepticism.
Jails and prisons have quickly emerged as epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic. As New York City struggled to get people out from behind bars, it turned to a trio of nonprofits to repurpose a successful program on the fly. The urgency of supporting people released abruptly from jail in the midst of a pandemic is clear, but so are the challenges. The experience also raises the question: what happens to criminal justice when the virus ends?
The effects of the coronavirus are not being experienced equally. Whether it’s infection rates, deaths, or job losses, people of low-income and of color are being hit hardest. In New York City, many of those effects are concentrated in communities where public housing is located. Our Neighborhood Safety Initiatives works with public housing residents. On New Thinking, the program's Alicia Arrington explains the challenge, and the response.
In 1996, 16-year-old Reginald Dwayne Betts was sentenced to nine years in prison for a carjacking. He spent much of that time reading, and eventually writing. After prison, he went to Yale Law School and published a memoir and three books of poems. But he’s still wrestling with what “after prison” means. This is a conversation about incarceration and the weight of history, both political and personal. Betts's most recent collection of poems is Felon.
What if you brought together prosecutors and people they may have helped to incarcerate for a college seminar behind bars on the criminal justice system, and asked them to produce a list of policy recommendations? That's the premise of a novel experiment in prison education. On New Thinking, hear from Jarrell Daniels, a program graduate, and Lucy Lang, executive director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution, who conceived of the idea.
Community service has been a staple of sentencing in the United States for more than 50 years, yet we know surprisingly little about how it's actually being used. In Act One of this episode of New Thinking, an audio snapshot of community service at the Center for Court Innovation. In Act Two, Joanna Weiss of the Fines and Fees Justice Center offers a national perspective on community service, and the troubling findings of two new reports.
What’s the connection between ending bail and closing jails? Organizing, organizing, organizing. On New Thinking, the Katal Center's gabriel sayegh explains why New York's reforms to bail might be the most significant in the country, and, when it comes to New York City's notorious Rikers jail, what needs to happen to get "the last person off that island."
As chief medical officer for New York City jails, Homer Venters realized early in his tenure that for many people dying in jail, the primary cause of death was jail itself. To document what was actually taking place behind bars, Venters and his team created a statistical category no one had dared to track before: "jail-attributable deaths." His work led him into frequent opposition with the security services. It also led to his book, Life and Death in Rikers Island.
Can art transform the criminal justice system? On this special edition of New Thinking, host Matt Watkins sits down with two New York City artists on the rise—Derek Fordjour and Shaun Leonardo—who both work with our Project Reset to provide an arts-based alternative to court and a criminal record for people arrested on a low-level charge. With the program set to expand city-wide, the three discuss art's potential to expose and contain a racialized criminal justice system.
While crime has been declining amid COVID-19, in cities across the country, gun violence and homicides have been the exceptions. Long-time researcher and former Obama Department of Justice official, Thomas Abt, says there are proven solutions to reduce the violence. But he says both the right and the left fail to grasp the essence of any solution: focus on the violence itself. Abt is the author of Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets.