One of every four people killed by police is experiencing a mental health emergency. Changing how we respond to crisis in the moment, and to widespread, ongoing mental health needs, means deferring to the leadership of people with lived experience and putting racial equity at the center of every reform. On today’s episode, listening to the people who know how to fix systems, because they’re surviving those systems’ harms.
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What’s the most effective way to reduce the chance of an arrest in the future? A new study suggests it’s shrinking the size of the justice system in the here and now. Boston D.A. Rachael Rollins and the director of NYU’s Public Safety Lab, Anna Harvey, talk about the benefits of not prosecuting low-level charges—an almost 60 percent reduction in recidivism—and the challenges, even with data in hand, of bucking the conventional wisdom.
Hear Rachael Rollins’s 2019 appearance on New Thinking
Journalist Maurice Chammah says the federal execution spree during the final weeks of the Trump presidency is evidence of the death penalty’s continued decline, not its resurgence. Chammah is the author of the new book, Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty.
Chammah tracks the long arc of the death penalty—its use and its symbolism—alongside the evolution of the criminal justice system as a whole. And he grounds his discussion in American history, particularly the history of Texas, the epicenter of the American death penalty.
In Texas, Chammah contends, a romantic myth about rough frontier justice has been used to obscure the extent to which state-sanctioned execution grew out of mob-driven lynchings, generally of Black men, common across the South after the Civil War until well into the twentieth century.
Homer Venters has been inspecting prisons, jails, and ICE detention centers for COVID-compliance almost since the start of the pandemic. The former chief medical officer for New York City jails says what were already substandard health systems and abusive environments have deteriorated sharply, where even people positive for the virus can languish unseen for days. Any fix to health care behind bars, he says, has to start with listening to the people these facilities have worked to silence: those with lived experience of the conditions.
Listen back to Venters’s New Thinking interview, ‘Jail-Attributable Deaths’
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.
**This episode was originally released in January 2019**
Josie Duffy Rice says remaking the justice system is a generational struggle, but it’s one progressives are winning. The well-known criminal justice commentator and activist, president of the news site The Appeal and host of its podcast, Justice in America, explains why she believes in the power of big ideas and offers her take on the federal election, “defund the police,” and the role of the media in promoting, or thwarting, change.
Why do some young people carry guns? It’s a difficult question to answer. People in heavily-policed neighborhoods with high rates of violence aren’t generally enthusiastic about answering questions about gun use. In this special episode, hear from three of the authors of a groundbreaking year-long study into young people and guns. The findings are disturbing, but if the goal is to learn directly from marginalized communities what they need to combat gun use, no less important is the remarkable way the research was conducted.
The movement to reform prisons is about as old as prisons themselves. But what is the ultimate goal of reform of a system like the criminal justice system? Victoria Law and Maya Schenwar contend that many of today’s most popular reforms—such as electronic monitoring and locked-down treatment centers—are extending, rather than countering, the justice system’s harmful effects. Their new book is Prison By Any Other Name.
While crime of nearly every kind 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 DOJ 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.
This episode was originally released in July 2019 (new episodes start next week!)
Listen back to New Thinking’s episode with Patrick Sharkey, author of Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, The Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence.
Learn more about the Center for Court Innovation’s “credible messenger” violence interruption program, Save Our Streets.
The alleged use of a $20 counterfeit bill, selling loose cigarettes on a street corner, a broken brake light—think how many police encounters that ended with the killing of a Black person began with misdemeanor enforcement. If you want to shrink the role of police and the justice system, misdemeanors are the best place to start. Low-level, often “order maintenance,” charges make up 80 percent of criminal cases, and it’s here the justice system’s endemic racial disparities are at their most yawning.
In this conversation from February 2019, Alexandra Natapoff explains how the consequences of the sprawling misdemeanor system can trail someone for life. She calls that system “one of the great, under-appreciated engines of racial inequality in this country,” tracing its roots to the backlash against Reconstruction at the end of the Civil War.
A professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, Natapoff is the author of Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal.