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.
Prosecutor-led diversion programs offer the prospect of “off-ramping” suitable cases early in the court process. This study provides a detailed portrait of the goals, target populations, and policies of prosecutor-led diversion programs across the country.
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.
The movement to elect reform-minded prosecutors has been around long enough and scored enough victories that progressive D.A.s now have their own support network: Fair and Just Prosecution. Miriam Krinsky, its executive director, explains why she thinks "starry-eyed idealists" who want to transform the justice system need to get the message that "the biggest difference they can make is to go and work in a prosecutor's office."
Project Reset seeks to provide a more proportionate and meaningful response to low-level offending by offering individuals with no prior arrests the opportunity to avoid prosecution and the collateral consequences of justice-involvement. This report evaluates the program pilot for 16- and 17-year-olds in Manhattan. Results point to positive impacts overall: participants had fewer new arrests and convictions and spent longer periods without experiencing a new arrest. Nearly all of the participants reported they would recommend the program to others.
How effective is therapy or treatment when it's used instead of incarceration, and what are the challenges to conducting it inside the coercive context of the criminal justice system? New Thinking host Matt Watkins is joined by clinical psychologist Jacob Ham who works with justice-involved young people affected by trauma, and John Jay College's Deborah Koetzle who evaluates programs aiming to help participants rebuild lives outside of the justice system.
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.
As a defense attorney, Larry Krasner sued the Philadelphia police upwards of 75 times. Then, in late 2017, he was elected D.A. in a landslide. As part of our series on the power of prosecutors, Krasner explains why he has little patience for compromise in a city whose justice system is "an outlier in a country that is an outlier."