Hurt people hurt people. That's not an excuse for harm, but it fuels much of the criminal justice system. At 19, Marlon Peterson was the unarmed lookout on a robbery where two people were killed. Peterson spent a decade behind bars. He writes about those years, and the childhood in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, that preceded them, in his new memoir. I made my own choices, Peterson says, “but I also did not choose to experience the type of things I experienced.”
In her new book, historian Elizabeth Hinton highlights a "crucible period" of often violent rebellions in the name of the Black freedom struggle beginning in 1968. Initiated in almost every instance by police violence, the rebellions—dismissed as "riots"—have been largely written out of the history of the civil rights era. Hinton contends the period is critical for understanding the roots of mass incarceration and contains important lessons today for people organizing against police violence.
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 our New Thinking podcast, listening to the people who know how to fix systems, because they’re surviving those systems' harms.
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.
Maurice Chammah says the unprecedented federal execution spree during the final weeks of the Trump presidency is evidence of the death penalty's continued decline, not its resurgence. The journalist is the author of the new book, Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty. Chammah tracks the use and symbolism of the death penalty alongside the long arc of U.S history and the evolution of the criminal justice system.
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. 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.
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, and president of the news site The Appeal, 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 guns. On New Thinking, hear from three of the authors of a year-long study we led into young people and guns. The findings are disturbing, but if the goal is to learn from marginalized communities themselves what help they need, no less important is the way the research was conducted.
The movement to reform prisons is almost as old as prisons themselves. But what is the ultimate goal of reform of a system like the criminal justice system? On our New Thinking podcast, Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law explain why they think many of today's most popular reforms are extending, rather than countering, the justice system's harmful effects. Their new book is Prison By Any Other Name.
Restorative justice is about repairing harm. But for Black Americans, what is there to be restored to? This special episode of New Thinking features a roundtable with eight members of our Restorative Justice in Schools team. They spent three years embedded in five Brooklyn high schools—all five schools are overwhelmingly Black, and all five had some of the highest suspension rates in New York City.