Today’s good reads in criminal-justice journalism, with an emphasis on longform narrative stories on crime and original reporting on crime victims and reforms in sentencing and prisons:
- Would you buy a used quote from this man? Victoria Bekiempis writes a critical portrait of oft-quoted juvenile crime “expert” Phil Chalmers, making it clear she thinks he is winging it and in the expert game to make a buck. I wonder if reporters who find this story when searching for experts will think twice about quoting Chalmers from now on. (Newsweek)
- In a story about the prosecution of teens accused of murder and assault in a series of homeless-bashing attacks in Albuquerque, Fernanda Santos cites a study that three-fifths of the city’s homeless reported being attacked at some point. Most, she writes, never bothered to report the crimes. “No one cares,” one told the reporter. (New York Times)
- Medellin once meant drug violence and dysfunction. Now it’s a hub of urban, architectural innovation. Rebecca Grant tells how it made the not-quite-complete transition. (Beacon Reader) Side note to the writer and her publisher: Hire some editors! It’s coca, not coco, from which cocaine is made. And the term is lightning-quick, not lightening. Professional storytelling requires a bit more polish than this.
- Joseph Goldstein reports on questions prompted by Eric Garner’s death that go beyond whether police used a banned choke hold. Why was his sale of untaxed cigarettes cause for confrontation in the first place? A look at high arrest numbers for minor offenses: the “broken windows” tactic in an age when windows are no longer all that broken. (New York Times) Meanwhile, a pro-enforcement advocate, Heather Mac Donald, argues why this is no time to back off from the tactic. (City Journal)
- Lauren Ritchie reports that author Gilbert King is working on a sequel, of sorts, to his Pulitzer-winning Devil in the Grove about racial injustice in Florida. (Orlando Sentinel)
- Thomas Wheatley investigates one prison death and uses it to explain the broader context: violence in Georgia prisons that reformers see as a sign of a poorly run system. (Atlanta Creative Loafing)
- Colin Woodard wraps up the series Unsettled tomorrow. I marked the start of the month-long series with this post, and my enthusiasm for it rarely waned throughout. Though the story fairly quickly branched out from the murder that was the focus at the outset, his reporting and writing about injustices inflicted on Maine’s Passamaquoddy tribe demonstrates the skill of one writer and the dedication to quality journalism of a small newspaper. (Portland Press Herald)
- Radley Balko’s astute analysis of Sen. Rand Paul’s criminal-justice-reform push — the latest bill would seek to fix a corrupt civil-forfeiture system — makes this key point: Even if Paul’s positions only stem from his quest for political popularity, think about what that says about how much the politics of crime has changed. (Washington Post)
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