Monthly Archives: May 2020

Justice and the Virus: Rachel Barkow

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—especially from prisons and jails, which have emerged as epicenters of the virus—and is there any reason to anticipate a “new normal” to emerge? New York University law professor Rachel Barkow explains her skepticism.

Episode page

Hear Barkow on New Thinking discuss her 2019 book, Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration

Interview recorded on May 19

Getting People Off Rikers Island in a Pandemic

The infection rate from COVID-19 in New York City’s Rikers Island jails is currently almost 30 times the rate for the U.S. as a whole. As the city struggled to get people out from behind bars—criticized both for moving too slowly, and for even contemplating releasing anyone early from a jail sentence—it turned to a trio of nonprofits to repurpose a successful program on the fly. The urgency of supporting people being 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?

Interview recorded on May 1

Episode page

See a summary of results from the Rikers Early Release Program

Listen to a related New Thinking: ‘Jail-Attributable Deaths’