Rachael Rollins says she has seen the criminal justice system from "almost every angle." Now, as Boston's first female African-American district attorney, she's setting the agenda. On New Thinking, she explains her approach of "services not sentences" as a response to low-level "crimes of poverty" and the urgency of changing the traditional role of the prosecutor.
Like a number of cities across the U.S., New York City is in the midst of a remarkable, often contentious, debate about the future and purpose of its jails. New Thinking host Matt Watkins recently moderated a public discussion of the city’s pledge to replace its notorious Rikers Island jail complex with a series of smaller, modern facilities—located near courthouses, not on an isolated island. It's a shift the mayor says will end the era of mass incarceration in the city.
How can the recent victories of the campaign to elect reform-minded district attorneys be wedded to larger systemic change to ensure the movement’s gains outlast the next election? On the final episode of our Prosecutor Power series, the ACLU's Somil Trivedi says progressive D.A.s have to take the next step of campaigning to reduce their own power.
Alexandra Natapoff calls the misdemeanor justice system a "quiet behemoth": making up four of every five criminal cases in the U.S., neglected by scholars and reformers, and potentially harming those caught up in it for life. In Punishment Without Crime, she describes a system warped by financial incentives that acts as a leading engine of racial and social inequality. She also says the reforms are obvious, and already happening in pockets across the country.
In this podcast, which was produced as part of Project SAFE, Afua Addo is joined by Dr. Monique Morris, the co-founder and president of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute, and Andrea C. James, the founder and executive director of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.
Through conversations with prosecutors, reformers, and public defenders, our New Thinking podcast has been examining the ideas, victories, and challenges of the movement to educate the public about the power of prosecutors and to elect "progressive" district attorneys promising to overhaul the justice systems they're inheriting.
In 2016, Adam Foss, a young prosecutor in Boston, gave a TED Talk on reforming his profession that became a sensation. Today he trains incoming prosecutors in D.A. offices across the country. In the latest episode of our series on prosecutors, Foss says the problem isn't that prosecutors have too much power; it's that no one is teaching them to use it for good.
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.
On the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, an introduction to the origins, programming, and community impact of Neighbors in Action, formerly known as the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. Neighbors in Action works to make the central Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant safer and healthier for all.
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.