"On every anniversary of Gideon, liberals bemoan the state of indigent defense." On this 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision granting a lawyer to every poor defendant facing prison time, there is much to bemoan. Yet as the harms of the criminal legal system come into sharper relief, there is a larger question: even if Gideon's promise was fulfilled, how much would that change who principally suffers under the current system: the poor and people of color?
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws took shape amid the “tough-on-crime” push of the late 1970s, making a signal contribution at the origins of our mass incarceration era. How would eliminating these laws—in whole or in part—affect the stark racial disparities in who is in prison in New York?
A recent two-day training for Manhattan prosecutors was a drumbeat on the harms of incarceration, part of a wider effort by D.A. Alvin Bragg to expand the use of alternatives such as treatment and restorative justice. But in a newly cramped climate for criminal justice reform, can that effort become a reality? New Thinking investigates.
Prosecutors make many of the most vital choices in a case unilaterally. Yet little is known about how they arrive at decisions in the most consequential cases: those charged as violent. Results from our national survey of prosecutor offices show a willingness to try new approaches but also suggest how prosecutors conceive of and prosecute violence can be rife with inconsistencies.
Efforts to reform the justice system—including our own—often tout they're "evidence-based" or "data-driven." But at a moment when a pandemic-era spike in crime seems to have put the reform movement on its heels, New Thinking asks: why do arguments based on data rarely seem to win the day? Christina Greer and John Pfaff—two scholars working at the intersection of data and politics—explain.
New York City has committed to closing its notorious Rikers Island jail facility by 2027, a seismic shift that would reorient the city's approach to incarceration. The plan envisions a citywide jail population of just over 3,000 people. But the population at Rikers has been growing for months, and Rikers itself is engulfed in crisis amidst a historic spike in deaths. On a roundtable episode of New Thinking: what are the prospects for finally getting Rikers closed?
Supervised Release is as effective as bail at ensuring people make their court appearances, sparing them the documented harms of pretrial detention and allowing them to receive supportive services in their community. This fact sheet of results from the first five years of the program finds its outcomes remain stable, despite its expansion last year to cover a larger, more charge-diverse population.
On New Thinking, an audio snapshot from an emergency rally demanding immediate measures to release people from New York City’s Rikers Island jail facility. Fourteen people have died in the custody of the city’s jail system this year as the chief medical officer for NYC Jails warns of “a collapse in basic jail operations.”
New York City's promise to shutter its notorious Rikers Island jail complex hinges on reducing the number of people in city jails—the overwhelming majority held awaiting trial. This report from the Independent Commission that called for Rikers' closure in 2017 and the Center for Court Innovation lays out a series of concrete, data-driven strategies to produce sizable jail reductions while prioritizing public safety.
Chidinma Ume is a connector of both people and resources as she consults with communities nationally to implement justice reforms. Based in our West Coast office, Chidinma serves as deputy director of policy, a role that allows her to provide jurisdictions advice, support, and training in the areas of jail reduction, criminal justice debt reform, and to work with government and community leaders on evidence-informed practices. Hear from Chidinma how she approaches the work of transforming justice in an effort to co-create a fairer, more human-centered system for all.