Unit 1: Crime and Justice in America
What Is the Sequence of Events in the Criminal Justice System? Bureau of Justice Statistics, Report to the Nation on Crime and Justice, 1998
This report reveals that the response to crime is a complex process, involving citizens as well as many agencies, levels, and branches of government.
Can a Jury Believe What It Sees? Videotaped Confessions Can Be Misleading, Jennifer L. Mnookin, The New York Times, 2014
According to recent research, interrogation recording of criminal suspects may in fact be too vivid and persuasive. In a series of experiments mock juries were shown exactly the same interrogation, but some saw only the defendant and others had a wider-angle view that showed the interrogator. Their conclusions were quite different.
An Unbelievable Story of Rape, T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, and Ken Armstrong, (co-published with The Marshall Project), 2015
An 18-year-old had reported being raped in her apartment by a man who had bound and gagged her. Then, confronted by police with inconsistencies in her story, she had conceded it might have been a dream; then, she admitted making the story up. The story doesn’t end there; that’s where it begins.
Criminals Should Get Same Leniency as Corporations, Judge Says, Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, 2015
A federal judge’s opinion is the latest influential voice to join a growing chorus of both liberals and conservatives who see the American criminal justice system as fundamentally unfair. As he lamented being asked to approve yet another corporate settlement, perhaps, the judge said, common criminals ought to be treated more like big companies.
We Have Lost the War on Drugs, Jeff Nesbit, U.S. News & World Report, 2015
Fatal drug overdoses in America were the highest in recorded history in 2014 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This won’t stop until we recognize the true nature of this tragedy. More police and more arrests won’t reverse this trend; only a deep, caring understanding of the true nature of drug addiction will.
The Fine Print in Holder’s New Forfeiture Policy Leaves Room for Continued Abuses, Jacob Sullum, Reason, 2015
An exception for joint task forces allows evasion of state property protections.
FBI Admits Flaws in Hair Analysis over Decades, Spencer S. Hsu, The Washington Post, 2015
The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony.
Drug Offenders in American Prisons: The Critical Distinction between Stock and Flow, Jonathan Rothwell, The Brookings Institution, 2015
There is now widespread, bipartisan agreement that mass incarceration is a huge problem in the US. The rates and levels of imprisonment are destroying families and communities, and widening opportunity gaps - especially in terms of race. But, how much is imprisonment for drug offenses to blame?
Unit 2: Victimology
How a $2 Roadside Drug Test Sends Innocent People to Jail, Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders, The New York Times, 2016
Police officers arrest over a million people a year in the US on charges of illegal drug possession. Field tests kits help them move quickly from suspicion to conviction; but the kits are far from reliable, and in 1978 the Department of Justice had determined that they should not be used as evidence at trial. However, most drug cases are decided well before trial, by the far more informal process of plea bargaining.
Out of the Shadows, Jenifer McKim, Huffington Post, 2015
Perhaps as troubling as children who die under the watch of social workers tasked to protect them are the stories of the children who died of abuse and neglect between 2009 and 2013 that were never brought into the state system at all. Social workers either dismissed reports of alleged maltreatment or never heard from concerned teachers, police, hospital workers or other mandated reporters at all.
More than 1,600 Women Murdered by Men in One Year, New Study Finds, Violence Policy Center, 2015
For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 94 percent of female victims nationwide were murdered by a male they knew. Of the victims who knew their offenders, 62 percent were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders. In 2013, firearms were the weapons most commonly used.
Human Sex Trafficking, Amanda Walker-Rodriguez and Rodney Hill, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 2011
The United States not only faces an influx of international victims but also has its own homegrown problem of interstate sex trafficking of minors. Among the children and teens living on the streets in the United States, involvement in commercial sex activity is a problem of epidemic proportion.
He Was Abused by a Female Teacher, but He Was Treated Like the Perpetrator, Simone Sebastian, The Washington Post, 2015
Growing evidence shows that boys who are sexually preyed upon by older female authority figures suffer psychologically in much the same way that girls do when victimized by older men.
Male Victims of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out, Emily Kassie, Huffington Post, 2015
Many men have difficulty with the language of sexual assault. There are words like "victim" and "survivor" that are hard for them to identity with because they find them antithetical to what it means to be a real man.
Unit 3: The Police
The Changing Environment for Policing, 1985–2008, David H. Bayley and Christine Nixon, National Institute of Justice, 2010
What are the differences in the environment for policing now compared with the 1985 to 1991 timeframe? Are the problems similar or different from one period to the other? Police today are considered to be performing well, but this assessment may be mistaken because the institutions that provide public safety are changing in profound ways that are not being recognized.
A Year of Reckoning: Police Fatally Shoot Nearly 1,000, Kimberly Kindy et al., The Washington Post, 2015
In a year-long study, The Washington Post found that the kind of incidents that have ignited protests in many US communities - most often, white police officers killing unarmed black men - represent less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings.
Police Chiefs, Looking to Diversity Forces, Face Structural Hurdles, Matt Apuzzo and Sarah Cohen, The New York Times, 2015
Though the history of discrimination and segregation looms large over American policing, many police chiefs are eager to hire minorities yet face structural hurdles that make it hard to diversity their departments. Those issues vary by state and city, making any single solution particularly elusive.
Training Officers to Shoot First, and He Will Answer Questions Later, Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, 2015
When police officers shoot people under questionable circumstances, Dr. Lewinski is often there to defend their actions. He concludes the officer acted appropriately, even when shooting an unarmed person, shooting the person in the back, and when other testimony contradicts the officer's story.
Defining Moments for Police Chiefs, Chuck Wexler, Police Executive Research Forum, 2015
One central theme that grew out of the conference of police chiefs was the importance of developing a culture of policing that recognizes when officers should step in and when they should step back from encounters with the public.
The Supreme Court’s Utah v. Strieff Decision and the Fourth Amendment, Joshua Waimberg, Constitution Daily, 2016
The Court held that evidence obtained from an unlawful police stop would not be excluded from court because the link between the stop and the discovery of the evidence was “attenuated” by the discovery of an outstanding warrant during the stop.
Excited Delirium and the Dual Response: Preventing In-Custody Deaths, Brian Roach, Kelsey Echols, and Aaron Burnett, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 2014
Excited delirium syndrome (ExDS) is a serious medical condition that may lead to death if not recognized and treated. Typical ExDS subjects are males around the age of 30 and most have a history of psychostimulant use or mental illness. Law enforcement or EMS personnel are often called to the scene because of public disturbances, agitation or bizarre behaviors and they should consider the possibility of ExDS when certain symptoms are present, and take the patient to the hospital.
Unit 4: The Judicial System
Court Conundrum: Offenders Who Can’t Pay, or Won’t, Shaila Dewan, The New York Times, 2015
It is rare for a municipal judge to submit to questions about his courtroom practices. But in granting an interview at his law office in Carrollton, Georgia, Judge Diment delved into a relatively unexamined question about the legal system today: how to determine whether offenders are unable, or simply unwilling, to pay their penalties.
US Supreme Court to Police: To Search a Cell Phone, “Get a Warrant,” Warren Richey, The Christian Science Monitor, 2014
In an indication of how fundamental Fourth Amendment protections are in the Supreme Court justices' view, the chief justice likened warrantless searches of cell phones to the "general warrants" and "writs of assistance" imposed during colonial America that allowed British troops to "rummage through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity." The Court rejected arguments that law enforcement officers must be able to immediately search the contents of a cell phone when it was found on a person at the time of arrest.
One Simple Way to Improve How Cops and Prosecutors Do Their Jobs, Mike Riggs, The Atlantic, 2013
Every year, the U.S. Justice Department sends hundreds of millions of dollars to states and municipalities, and the bulk of it goes toward fighting the drug war. The Brennan Center for Justice Report suggests that the over-policing of minor crimes and over-incarceration of non-violent offenders are goals that need to be changed.
Against His Better Judgment, Eli Saslow, The Washington Post, 2015
In the meth corridor of Iowa, a federal judge comes face to face with the reality of congressionally mandated sentencing.
Does an Innocent Man Have the Right to Be Exonerated? Marc Bookman, The Atlantic, 2014
In the 1980s, Larry Youngblood was wrongfully imprisoned for raping a 10-year-old boy. The way the Supreme Court handled his case had lasting consequences.
Anatomy of a Snitch Scandal, Jordan Smith, The Intercept, 2016
Prosecutorial misconduct and the misuse of jailhouse informants are persistent problems. Since 1989 there have been 923 exonerations tied to official misconduct by prosecutors, police, or other government officials - 89 of them in cases involving the use of jailhouse snitches. A scandal exposing systemic violation of defendants’ constitutional rights and calling into question the legality of the prosecution of a number of violent felony cases has engulfed Orange County, California.
Stanford Sexual Assault: Records Show Judge’s Logic Behind Light Sentence, Julia Carrie Wong, The Guardian, 2016
The judge who sentenced Brock Turner, the former Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, said at the sentencing hearing that a positive character reference submitted by Turner’s childhood friend “just rings true”, according to a court transcript.
Unit 5: Juvenile Justice
Juveniles Facing Lifelong Terms Despite Rulings, Erik Eckholm, The New York Times, 2014
U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2010 and 2012 curtailed the use of mandatory life sentences for juveniles, accepting the argument that children, even those who are convicted of murder, are less culpable than adults and usually deserve a chance at redemption. However, most states have taken half measures, at best, to carry out the rulings.
Old Laws Collide with Digital Reality in Colorado Teen Sexting Case, P. Solomon Banda and Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press, 2015
Educators in a small Colorado town say they had no choice but to alert police when they discovered that many high-schoolers were using a cellphone app to collect and hide hundreds of naked photos of themselves. Prosecutors are looking for evidence of coercion and to see if any adults were involved.
Not a Lock: Youth Who Stay Closer to Home Do Better than Those in Detention, Texas Study Shows, Lynne Anderson, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE), 2015
For two decades reports and studies have shown the futility of programs of youth jails. After abuses within the Texas system came to light in 2007, Texas moved to reduce the number of incarcerated youth. During 2007 to 2012, the number of young people incarcerated dropped more than 60% and juvenile crime dropped more than 30%—evidence that safety was not compromised by changes in the law.
Juvenile Injustice: Truants Face Courts, Jailing without Legal Counsel to Aid Them, Susan Ferriss, Center for Public Integrity, 2014
Parents allege that children whose only infraction was struggling with a loathing for school were pulled into the criminal justice system, branded with permanent delinquency records and jailed with kids who had actually committed crimes. All of this happened without their kids having lawyers, and some dropped out rather than go back to school.
Level 14: How a Home for Troubled Children Came Undone and What It Means for California’s Chance at Reform, Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, 2015
The breakdown at FamiliesFirst, one of California's largest residential facilities for emotionally damaged kids, has helped spur California to rethink how it cares for its most troubled children, a question that for decades has confounded not just the state but the country.
Arrest of Tennessee Children Exposes Flawed Juvenile Justice, Sheila Burke, The Associated Press, 2016
A Tennessee police officer tried to prevent the arrests that would embroil his department in a national furor over policing in schools, but his colleagues and supervisors refused to change course. What followed was an unusually public examination of how police handle children suspected of wrongdoing.
Tribal Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2016
Research has examined the juvenile justice system’s disparate treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, including the disproportionate representation of American Indian and Alaska Native youth across the contact points in the system; as well as the lack of access to treatment, services, and other resources; and the risk factors that may increase their contact with the justice system.
Unit 6: Punishment and Corrections
The Archipelago of Pain, David Brooks, The New York Times, 2014
At the level of human experience, social pain is, if anything, more traumatic, more destabilizing, and inflicts crueler and longer-lasting effects than physical pain. What we're doing to prisoners in solitary confinement when we lock them away in social isolation for 23 hours a day, often for months, years, or decades at a time is arguably more inhumane than flogging them would be.
Meet the Ungers, Jason Fagone, Huffington Post, 2016
Several decades ago when they were young, 230 men and one woman were convicted of terrible crimes, but instead of spending their lives in prison, Merle Unger, one of the most notorious escape artists of our time, discovered an ingenious, legal, way to get them out. It was an unimagined second chance for them - and a nerve-wracking experiment for everyone else.
For Mentally Ill Inmates at Rikers Island, a Cycle of Jail and Hospitals, Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz, The New York Times, 2015
For years, Rikers has been filling with people who have complicated psychiatric problems that are little understood and do not get resolved elsewhere: the unwashed man passed out in a public stairwell; the 16-year-old runaway; the drug addict; the belligerent panhandler screaming in a full subway car.
States Struggle with What to Do with Sex Offenders after Prison, Monica Davey, The New York Times, 2015
Civil commitment for sex offenders gained support in the 1990s amid reports of heinous sex crimes by repeat offenders. Minnesota has the highest population of civilly committed offenders per capita - nearly all men - in the nation, and the lowest rate of release. And costs have soared to about $125,000 per resident per year, at least three times the cost of an ordinary prison inmate in Minnesota.
The Painful Price of Aging in Prison, Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post, 2015
Even as harsh sentences are reconsidered, the financial—and human—tolls mount.
The Radical Humaneness of Norway’s Halden Prison, Jessica Benko, The New York Times, 2015
The treatment of inmates at Halden is wholly focused on helping to prepare them for a life after they get out. Not only is there no death penalty in Norway; there are no life sentences.
Portugal Cut Addiction Rates in Half by Connecting Drug Users With Communities Instead of Jailing Them, Johann Hari, Yes! Magazine, 2015
Fifteen years ago, the Portuguese had one of the worst drug problems in Europe. So they decriminalized drugs, took money out of prisons, put it into holistic rehabilitation, and found that human connection is the antidote to addiction.
“The Worst of the Worst” Aren’t the Only Ones Who Get Executed, Simon McCormack, Huffington Post, 2014
Research provides evidence that many of the people who are given the death penalty are not cold, calculating, remorseless killers. Researchers were surprised that there was evidence suggesting they have real problems with functional deficits that you wouldn't expect to see in people being executed.