Crime victim stories

Return to main Recent Work page

Slate: Crime victim series

Slate-logoJune-December 2015

This series of narrative feature stories that show the ways in which we fail to understand who is harmed by crime and what they need from us was supported by a Soros Justice Fellowship:

Part 1: Radical forgiveness. One woman’s forgiving relationship with the man who killed her daughter, and what that relationship shows about a split in the victims’ movement.

Part 2: Victims as prisoner counselors. I visited Texas prisons to witness the work of Bridges to Life, a program in which victims go inside prisons to teach prisoners empathy for their victims. What, I asked, do the victims gain from this?

Part 3: Tough-on-crime’s last true believer. I profiled Bill Otis, the leading voice of tough-on-crime federal policy, whose use of pro-victim rhetoric to justify harsh sentencing laws goes largely unanswered by criminal-justice reformers.

Part 4: Victim advocacy meets police reform. Susan Herman is the most important police reformer you’ve never heard of. The longtime victims’ advocate works to change the culture of policing, and cops’ relationships with citizens in the most troubled neighborhoods, from her executive position in the New York Police Department. What does it mean to seek better victim services in combination with improved police-community relations?

Part 5: Crime victims focused on prevention, not punishment. In Los Angeles, these four examples of anti-violence activism show what a communal response to crime looks like when we really listen to victims.

Part 6: Why isn’t restorative justice the solution? A pioneering program’s rise and fall illustrates why this movement has played only a marginal role in this country, despite its benefits to victims and answers to many of the challenges facing our criminal-justice system.

Here is a collection of blog posts on this work in progress and a post on some of the themes it explores.

AJAMAl Jazeera America

What does victim advocacy look like when it’s more aligned with criminal-justice reform than with law enforcement? My January 13, 2016, story on new-wave victim advocacy spotlights Californians for Safety and Justice and the chair of its victims group, David Guizar. They’re at the forefront of a movement that emphasizes better victim services and crime prevention over punishment of offenders. These policy goals, which are catching on across the country, recognize the needs and identity of the most at-risk communities, where people of color face far higher rates of violence and incarceration.

Pacific Standard

psmagcover-08My July/August 2013 cover story, “The Upside of Trauma,” looks at the aftermath of the Christmas Eve 2012 sniper attack on West Webster volunteer firefighters by exploring post-traumatic stress disorder’s lesser-known opposite. When my hometown suffered this shock, I wanted to understand the impulse that pulls a community together after mass shootings and other tragedies. That’s when I learned about a related but distinct phenomenon known as post-traumatic growth. My reporting and review of the research into the mind’s ability to turn trauma into a new mission in life, not just the resilience to return to normal, led me to a handful of people in Webster, New York, who are trying to cultivate positive change — in the town and in themselves.

Miller-McCune magazine (now Pacific Standard)

January/February 2011 feature on an innovative program in Texas to help violent-crime victims recover by talking it out with the criminals who harmed them. A sidebar took a look at Susan Herman’s book Parallel Justice for Victims of Crime.

A writer and editor on law, crime, and business