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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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Criminal (In)justice
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Oct 13, 2019

Supervised injection sites provide a venue where addicts can safely use intravenous drugs under medical supervision. The practice saves lives, but in the midst of a deadly opioid epidemic the Justice Department is going after injection sites using laws designed to shut down crack houses.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month and unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Oct 10, 2019

Are you a Criminal Injustice patron? If not, here's a taste of what you're missing on the members feed! Unlock this episode and more exclusive content at patreon.com/criminalinjustice.


Pete Buttigieg entered the Democratic presidential primary race last spring with a message deliberately light on policy specifics. Since then he's rolled out a robust criminal justice  platform, part of a broader package of social reforms -- but will it be enough to win over African American voters skeptical of his record as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, where Buttigieg presided over a string of race-inflected law enforcement scandals?

Oct 8, 2019

Dave explains how prosecutors use "drug delivery resulting in death" charges in opioid overdose deaths on WESA's The Confluence.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month and unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Oct 5, 2019

Amber Guyger, the off-duty police officer who murdered Botham Jean in his Dallas apartment, has been found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison. The trial's resolution -- and surprising displays of emotion in the courtroom -- have sparked almost as much reaction as the crime itself.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Oct 1, 2019

Koch Industries and Charles and David Koch – names that
are synonymous with right-wing political causes and
deregulation of industry. So why is Koch joining with the left to give former inmates second chances?

Jenny Kim is Deputy General Counsel and Vice President for Public
Policy at Koch Industries. She’ll tell us why Koch has taken
up criminal justice reform, and she’ll tell us what she says to
Koch critics.

Do the Koch Brothers Really Care About Criminal-Justice Reform?

Willie Horton 1988 Attack Ad


Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Sep 28, 2019

Are you a Criminal Injustice patron? If not, here's a taste of what you're missing on the members feed! Unlock this episode and more exclusive content at patreon.com/criminalinjustice.


Sen. Elizabeth Warren's campaign has offered meaty policy proposals on a variety of topics, and criminal justice is no exception. While many of her proposals on issues like mass incarceration, marijuana, and private prisons line up with those of other candidates, they're distinguished by the way Warren frames them: with a dual emphasis on reforming the system and upholding public safety.

Sep 24, 2019

A crime summit held recently in St. Louis was a virtual who's-who of high ranking city and state government officials. Conspicuously absent from the gathering were the progressive, African American district attorneys of St. Louis and Kansas City, who were excluded despite having been elected to the top law enforcement post in Missouri's two largest cities. We look at the latest in a trend of anti-democratic attacks on reformist elected prosecutors.


Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Sep 21, 2019

Following a string of bank robberies, Portland police put together a photo lineup of suspects -- including one man whose mugshot had been digitally manipulated to remove prominent facial tattoos that were not present on the robber's face as described by witnesses and as shown on surveillance video. Can they do that?


Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Sep 17, 2019

Urban violence kills thousands of Americans every year.  It accounts for almost three quarters of the murders in the U.S., and it traps a huge number of people in poverty, blight, trauma and despair.  What if there was a way cut murderous urban violence – by half?

Guest Thomas Abt says it can be done with the tools we have now. He’s the author of “Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence – and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets.” 


Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Sep 16, 2019

Are you a Criminal Injustice patron? If not, here's a taste of what you're missing on the members feed! Unlock this episode and more exclusive content at patreon.com/criminalinjustice.


To understand Sen. Kamala Harris's criminal justice positions, you have to look at each of the three distinct phases of her career: politically ambitious prosecutor in San Francisco, controversial "top cop" AG of California, and Democratic primary contender lurching leftward as consensus shifts on the issues that defined her. Which is the real Harris?

Sep 13, 2019

The Justice Department has announced it will seek the death penalty in the case against Robert Bowers, the white supremacist gunman who murdered worshippers in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue last year. Dave discusses the decision on Pittsburgh NPR station WESA.


Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Sep 10, 2019

To celebrate the launch of our Patreon, we're sharing the first in a series of presidential candidate profiles: a look at frontrunner Joe Biden's amazing transformation from a tough-on-crime conservative Democrat during the '80s and '90s into a decarcerationist and would-be reformer on the 2020 campaign trail. 

In future episodes we'll be examining the records and rhetoric of each of the major presidential candidates. To hear the rest of the series, become a $5/month Criminal Injustice member and gain access to our new premium content stream! There we'll be releasing more special series like this one, along with extra bonus episodes and videos just for our Patreon supporters -- and, if you're one of the first 100 to join, you'll get a free signed copy of Dave's 2012 book Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science. 

Sep 7, 2019

As reform-minded elected prosecutors gain power across the U.S., they’re increasingly coming under fire from their federal counterparts — most recently, an anti-democratic tirade by U.S. Attorney Bill Barr, who attacked progressive district attorneys for doing what voters elected them to do.


Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Sep 3, 2019

Many people make their social media posts public.  Everyone can see them, like a signed billboard visible anywhere in the world. So, what should we think when we learn that *some* police officers, in some departments, have been posting racist messages or memes endorsing violence, visible to anyone on the Internet? 

Emily Baker-White is founder of The Plain View Project, an organization that gathered and analyzed thousands of social media posts by police officers, from many police departments. The results reveal much – none of it positive – about the racial and other attitudes of some officers. 

Aug 30, 2019

In another appearance on 90.5 WESA's The Confluence, Dave follows up on Donald Trump's reinstatement of the federal death penalty.

Aug 27, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns with a new season on Tuesday, September 3! Until then, we're reposting one more of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared November 13, 2018.

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We often hear about new methods police try to achieve better results against crime. But do the police have any reason to believe that their new approaches will work? Are their new initiatives based on hope, or on actual evidence that they will really help?

Our guest, Dr. Cynthia Lum, is Professor of Criminology and Director of the Center for Evidence Based Crime Policy, George Mason University. She’ll talk to us about Evidence Based Policing – and how she and her colleagues pioneered an approach that can make sure that what police want to do will really improve things.

Aug 24, 2019

Regardless of how it looks, there’s no direct evidence that Jeffrey Epstein’s jailhouse death on August 10 was anything other than a suicide. But there’s abundant evidence of a systemic problem with prison suicide — something that’s far more common than most people realize.

Aug 20, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns soon with new episodes. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared November 21, 2017.

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An important rule of legal ethics is the obligation to keep client information confidential. Lawyers say that rule is fundamental to the attorney client relationship, so clients can speak freely. But what happens when following that rule keep someone else – an innocent person – in prison? That’s what happened to Alton Logan, who sat in prison in Illinois for 26 years, even though two lawyer who represented the guilty man knew the truth all along.

We talk to Berl Falbaum, who helped Logan tell his story.

Aug 15, 2019

Bucking a decades-long trend of fewer death sentences imposed by states, the Trump administration wants to bring back capital punishment in federal cases. What does that mean? What happens next?

Aug 13, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns soon with new episodes. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared January 23, 2018.

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Why has the US prison population has grown for decades, surpassing two million? We’ve put more people in jail, but new research shows it’s not just how many people go to prison. What counts, for prison growth, is how long they stay. Ryan King, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, has created a ground-breaking study of how the exponential growth in prisons has really been driven by the growth in long sentences. Even as some states have reformed incarceration around low level offenses, long sentences remain stubbornly in place, and receive almost no attention.

Aug 10, 2019

Here we are again: amid a worsening climate of white supremacist violence and right-wing terrorism, two more horrific mass shootings. How long are we going to keep doing this?

Aug 6, 2019

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

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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

Jul 30, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns with new episodes later this month. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared April 2, 2019

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Jury service is THE way that members of the public participate in the criminal justice system. But who gets to serve? Are certain racial or ethnic groups excluded, and what’s the effect of these exclusions in the courtroom? An update on the groundbreaking “Jury Sunshine Project” from Professor Ronald Wright of Wake Forest University School of Law; he’s one of the co-leaders of the Jury Sunshine Project in North Carolina.

Jul 26, 2019

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who died last week at age 99, was an independent thinker and a fascinating figure. We recall a few notable moments from Justice Stevens's extraordinary legal career.

Jul 23, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns with new episodes later this month. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared November 27, 2018.

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When the police kill an unarmed black man, we know the family and community suffer. But what about other people – particularly Black Americans beyond those closest to the victim – what’s the impact on them? The spillover effect of police killings and other violence on Black Americans?

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