In Misdemeanorland, Issa Kohler-Hausmann argues the lower courts are no longer primarily concerned with whether people actually committed the offense they’ve been accused of. Instead, the focus is on future behavior: upholding social order through managing and assessing—often over long stretches—everyone with the misfortune of entering Misdemeanorland. It's an argument that forces us to rethink what justice should look like in low-level cases.
About two out of three people in local jails are being held awaiting trial, often because they can't afford bail. What if a mathematical formula could do a more objective job of identifying who could be safely released? That's the promise of risk assessments. But critics call them "justice by algorithm," and contend they're reproducing the bias inherent to the justice system, only this time under the guise of science.
Kim Foxx's unexpected 2016 victory in the race for State's Attorney for Cook County (Chicago) helped to ignite the movement to elect prosecutors promising something other than being "tough on crime." As part of our series on prosecutor power, Foxx explains the reforms she’s put in place, her struggles with being the face of a system that continues to fail so many of her constituents, and offers her take on the “incredible” gains made by the movement to elect a new kind of prosecutor.
Columbia University's Bruce Western, a leading expert on the connection between mass incarceration and poverty, discusses his new book, Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison, and outlines his vision for a justice system rebuilt to respond to the deep deprivation and trauma fueling much of the behaviour that leads to imprisonment.
For survivors of domestic violence, financial insecurity is often a huge problem. Without money to support themselves and their families, survivors can struggle to gain independence. In this New Thinking podcast, Michael Hayes from the Office of Child Support Enforcement and Krista Del Gallo from the Texas Council on Family Violence talk with Robert V. Wolf about strategies that states and the federal government are promoting to help survivors safely access child support.
Jill Harris says she's "shocked to find myself working for a D.A." A long-time advocate for criminal justice reform, Harris, now the head of the Brooklyn D.A.'s Justice 2020 reform initiative, offers her take on the role of the prosecutor in the third installment of our series on the debate over prosecutor power.
Legal Hand seeks to help people resolve civil justice issues before they need lawyers and court intervention. In our latest New Thinking episode, learn about how the program works, how civil justice issues impact different communities, and why it can be hard to get basic legal information to the people who need it.
Highlights from a public screening and panel discussion of Bill Moyers's 'Rikers: An American Jail,' moderated by New Thinking host, Matt Watkins. Commenting on the film and the future of criminal justice reform are Tina Luongo of the Legal Aid Society, Jill Harris of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, and two of the people formerly held on Rikers featured in the film: Barry Campbell of the Fortune Society, and Johnny Perez of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
On our New Thinking podcast, Patrick Sharkey, the author of Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence, discusses the wider costs of violence and the threat posed by inequality and disinvestment to the current fragile gains. He points to the signal role of community organizing and community-based nonprofits in combating violence and building safer, more resilient cities.
Who gets to decide which reforms to the criminal justice system receive the imprimatur of "evidence-based"? To combat what she sees as the monopoly over these decisions created by the high cost of the current evaluation model, Angela Hawken founded BetaGov, offering free and fast evaluations of public policy programs. What is more, as Hawken explains on our New Thinking podcast, the ideas tested generally come from practitioners, or even clients, inside the systems themselves.