This is a blog about the journalists writing about crime and criminal justice reform. So, rather than tweet out an answer to The Marshall Project’s question seeking names of “favorite bloggers on criminal justice issues,” I’ll post my answer here with a few caveats.
Following this issue requires the proverbial exercise in drinking from a firehose. I’m trying to be selective, but keep in mind I could generate a list of nearly this quality with another 20 bloggers/writers.
My bias is toward original reporting, so while my list isn’t exclusively focused there, it’s never far from the center of my attention. Another asterisk on my answers: What exactly is a blogger anymore? Now that many news sites adopt a blog format, the genre has lost much of its original meaning — a good thing, in my view, as the technology isn’t what matters. There are journalists, policy analysts and advocates, academics, and interested bystanders all contributing something to the conversation. When that “something” is original, informed, deeply researched or reported, and written well, then by definition it matters. And, while I care at least as much about reported narratives that illustrate the realities of crime and reform, I’ll stick to the assignment at hand by focusing on writing that more closely resembles blog commentary and analysis.
So enough with the throat-clearing. Here’s my list of bloggers (whatever that means) I follow because of what and how they write about criminal justice issues:
The Crime Report. I’ve said it before. But, until The Marshall Project delivers on its promise to build a hub for reporting on criminal justice reform, this news aggregator and producer of original reports — affiliated with the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice — is the best show in town.
Andrew Cohen is in so many places at once — CBS, The Atlantic, The Week, and more — that the only surefire way to keep tabs on him is via his Twitter feed. Informed by both a strong pro-reform point of view but also by original reporting, his commentary and reports are as provocative and informative as they are voluminous. The quality of his reports, considering the volume, is simply breathtaking. He tosses off stories like this one two days ago so routinely that I think he’s redefined my full-time job as “reading Andrew Cohen.”
Radley Balko’s The Watch, hosted by the Washington Post, keys off his book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, but it’s broader on the issues than that. Take his latest post, a detailed, research-filled rebuttal to law-savvy editorial writer Charles Lane’s challenge of his views on drug legalization.
Sentencing-law expert Doug Berman’s Sentencing Law & Policy, and his newer blog on marijuana policy, keep me up on research and news. The comments on SL&P are worth reading, too.
Pacific Standard magazine, which produces a robust menu of original content online as well as what’s in print, regularly calls attention to new ideas in the research world. Here are its posts on crime.
Justin Peters’ Crime blog at Slate is on hiatus while he writes a book about Internet activist Aaron Swartz, but it’s worth waiting for its return. Less crime-centric, but well worth a read when they focus on it (and even when they don’t), are Dahlia Lithwick, Emily Bazelon, and their guest writers for Slate’s Jurisprudence column.
If there is a purer expression of push-back to the reform movement than Crime and Consequences, I haven’t seen it. Tough-on-crime, pro-prosecution advocates Bill Otis and Kent Scheidegger regularly counter the enthusiasm of their policy foes. Plus, their Criminal Justice Legal Foundation staff produces a helpful stream of “news scans.” You don’t have to agree with them, but it pays to hear all sides.
In the same vein, the group Right on Crime produces this blog highlighting its research and activism: an argument for reform from a conservative point of view (which, delightfully, sounds a lot like the liberal point of view because the reform movement has been breaking down ideological barriers, er, left and right).
James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminologist and expert on mass shootings, writes Crime & Punishment for the Boston Globe and writes occasionally for USA Today.
Reuters’ Alison Frankel is all over the white-collar crime scene.
The Innocence Project’s blog does a good job of keeping up with wrongful conviction and other prison-reform issues.
North Country Public Radio (in far-upstate New York) produces Prison Time, a strong, worthwhile series on prison and sentencing reform that’s updated via this blog.
Leading restorative-justice advocate Howard Zehr and his circle of colleagues produce a sporadic stream of posts on research and experiments in their field.
This is another sign of my Texas obsession, but Grits for Breakfast is a must-read.
Solitary Watch is produced by the great reporter James Ridgeway and others.
The Standdown Texas Project tracks reform in that state and others.
Vera Institute’s Current Thinking focuses on reform-minded research.
The thinking and research behind Mark A.R. Kleiman’s important book When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment shows up in The Reality-Based Community blog now and then, as well as in his Twitter feed.
This is isn’t exhaustive. My own RSS feeds and social-media likes and follows constantly grow and change as the writers do the same. (They’re about to grow even more, now that I have new names to check out from the growing list of replies to The Marshall Project’s query.) For now, though, this list isn’t a bad place to start if you’re trying to follow the action in this arena.