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Criminal (In)justice

Problems with police, prosecutors and courts have people asking: is our criminal justice system broken? University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris interviews the people who know the system best, and hears their best ideas for fixing it. Criminal (In)justice is an independent production created in partnership with 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station.
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Mar 19, 2019

When policing has a major crisis – the 1980s crime wave, or the killings of unarmed black men by police in 2014 and 2015 – we often grab for a high-tech fix. But technology seldom becomes the silver bullet we hope for. Our guest has put this trend under the microscope. We talk with veteran investigative journalist Matt Stroud about his new book, Thin Blue Lie: The Failure of High-Tech Policing, published in April of 2019.

Mar 12, 2019

When deciding whether to charge a police officer with murder, prosecutors are bound to a stricter standard than applies in other murder cases. But that could change under a bill advancing in California's state legislature.

Mar 8, 2019

An Illinois police officer gets probation after shooting his own son.

Mar 5, 2019

Americans know that if they want a better criminal justice system, prosecutors must drive change. We’ve seen the result in election of more progressive prosecutors across the country. But what should this new wave of prosecutors do? What policies should shape their priorities?

Our guest Miriam Krinsky is a former prosecutor and now executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, which has issued a new report, “21 Principles for 21st Century Prosecutor.”

Mar 2, 2019

Thousands of California police officers have been convicted of crimes, but their identities are kept secret under a state attorney general's policy. Now AG Xavier Becerra is threatening to prosecute journalists who obtained a list of criminal cops via an open records request.

Feb 26, 2019

As reported by WBEZ, there's been a rash of suicides in Chicago's police department, including officers who shot themselves while in uniform and on duty. 

Patrick Smith, "Chicago’s Police Suicide Rate Is Higher Than National Average. What’s Being Done About It?"

Feb 23, 2019

Civil asset forfeiture takes a hit in the Supreme Court: per this week's 9-0 decision, the constitutional prohibition against excessive fines applies to states under 12th amendment due process protections.

Feb 19, 2019

We try to solve the problem of mass incarceration by eliminating mandatory sentences, or by getting rid of cash bail. But what about a better method of providing criminal defense services? Could this cut prison and jail populations, AND secure public safety? There’s a way to do this: use a holistic model for criminal defense services.

Our guest is James Anderson, the director of the Justice Policy Program and the Institute for Civil Justice, and a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation, in Pittsburgh. He’s one of the authors of “The Effects of Holistic Defense on Criminal Justice Outcomes,” which will be published in the Harvard Law Review.

Feb 16, 2019

As reported by George Joseph and Debbie Nathan in The Intercept and The Appeal, inmates at many U.S. prisons are coerced to submit digital voice print samples before being allowed to use the telephone. 

Feb 13, 2019

Following up last week's Jamie Kalven interview (recorded late 2018), an update on major recent developments in the Laquan McDonald case.

Feb 12, 2019

Season 1 fan favorite Jordan Margolis, aka Excuseman: the hero we deserve, but not the one we need.

Feb 5, 2019

Chicago has seen police scandals for decades -- from torturing suspects into confessions to the Laquan McDonald murder and coverup. 

James Kalven has combined journalism and human rights work to spur police reform. Has it worked? And what lies ahead for a city awash in homicides and distrust of police?

Feb 2, 2019

An algorithm can't be racist, right? As it turns out, facial recognition software trained and tested mostly on white people is really good at identifying race and gender... as long as you're white and male. 

New York Times Jan. 24, 2019: "Amazon is Pushing Facial Technology That a Study Says Could Be Biased"

Jan 29, 2019

Criminal Injustice season 1 guest Sam Walker argues in the Illinois Law Review that criminal justice reform is still possible.

Jan 26, 2019

The Supreme Court delivers decisions on two criminal justice hot buttons: civil asset forfeiture and double jeopardy. 

Jan 22, 2019

Black Americans say they often experience difficulty with police that whites don't experience: extra scrutiny, harassment, profiling, even violence. Police say they have a difficult job that others just don't understand. What's it like to be both black and a police officer?

Matthew Horace is a former officer and the co-author of a fascinating memoir that explores this dynamic, The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America's Law Enforcement.

Jan 21, 2019

If Donald Trump goes on Fox News to issue what sounds like a veiled threat against Michael Cohen's family, isn't that obstruction? Or witness tampering, at the least? One school of thought holds that Trump's thinking is too disorganized, and his rhetoric too incoherent, to hold him accountable for much of anything he says.

Jan 17, 2019

President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer will serve three years in prison for campaign finance violations and other crimes, despite (sorta, kinda) cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's team. What did Michael Cohen tell them, and what did he leave out?

Jan 14, 2019

Some district attorneys' offices keep secret lists of police officers who are not to be called to testify because their credibility is in question. How widespread is the practice?

Jan 12, 2019

Following his death last month former president George H.W. Bush was eulogized as a moderate who carried himself with dignity and grace, recalling a kinder and gentler era in American politics.

But Bush's record on criminal justice tells another story. From the Willie Horton ad to the Oval Office speech in which he dangled a bag of crack before the camera, Bush weaponized tough-on-crime rhetoric laden with racial dogwhistles, pushing drug-war policies that led to mass incarceration and worse.

Jan 8, 2019

Since the creation of the first SWAT teams in the 1960s, militarized police units have multiplied. SWAT teams can rescue hostages or handle emergencies – but are they used that way? Do they increase public safety? And what’s the impact on the public, and on officers? Guest Jonathan Mummolo, Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, discusses his new research into the effect of police militarization – on crime, on communities of color, and on police agencies themselves.

Guest: Jonathan Mummolo, Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Princeton University

Militarization Fails to Enhance Police Safety or Reduce Crime but May Harm Police Reputation

Jan 5, 2019

At the start of a new year, producer Josh Raulerson joins David for a recap of 2018's biggest criminal justice stories and a look at what may be in store for 2019.

Topics: repercussions from police shootings in Chicago and East Pittsburgh, PA; progressive elected prosecutors pushing reforms in a growing number of cities; the state of marijuana decriminalization and legalization; the endgame for Robert Mueller's investigation into Donald Trump and associates; Jeff Sessions exits the Trump administration; inmates organize around prison labor; the Supreme Court rules in Carpenter; and how the Justice Department's abdication of responsibility for fighting domestic terrorism from the right led to a surge in violent hate crimes.

Criminal Justice returns with all-new episodes on Tuesday, January 8.

Jan 1, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns with new episodes on January 8, 2019. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared May 29, 2018.

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The word “torture” conjures images of Abu Ghraib in Iraq, or waterboarding at CIA black sites. But in the 70s and 80s, torture went on in parts of the Chicago Police Department for years. We’ll learn what happened, and we’ll talk about the consequences for civilians and the justice system.

Steve Mills is a veteran journalist and Deputy Editor of ProPublica Illinois

Dec 18, 2018

Criminal Injustice returns with new episodes on January 8, 2019. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared July 10, 2018.

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In the US, we incarcerate our fellow citizens at the highest rate in the world. And once they are in prison, we give the incarcerated not another thought. But one program works to help improve our imprisoned population, by teaching them college courses inside – along with college students, from the outside. It’s called the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program – and it’s grown from a single program at a Philadelphia sponsored at Temple University, to a force in 130 prisons around the world involving 130 universities and colleges.

Dec 11, 2018

Criminal Injustice returns with new episodes on January 8, 2019. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared Sep 18, 2018.

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Female police officers bring a unique, positive skill set to

the job. They communicate better, and have a special talent
for de-escalation. In an era when we want less force and
more de-escalation, should the future of policing be female?

Guest Dr. Cara Rabe-Hemp is professor in the Department of
Criminal Studies at Illinois State University. She the author
of Thriving in an All-Boys Club: Female Police and their
Fight for Equality (2018).

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