This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: a new report from The Marshall Project examines the work of Kim Foxx, who was elected State’s Attorney for Cook County, Illinois in 2016 on a platform of transparency and reform. One year into her term, Foxx released six years’ worth of data outlining what happened in every felony brought to her office, offering an unprecedented degree of access and insight into the decision-making of prosecutors and its impact. The Marshall Project’s analysis of this data points to Foxx’s work as a model for progressive prosecutors around the country, and highlights the importance of access and transparency in efforts to reform the criminal justice system.
The New York Times reports that last week, the New York City Council voted to support a controversial $8 billion plan to close the infamous Rikers Island Jail and replace it with four smaller, more “humane” jails located around the city. Under the plan, the new facilities would house just over 3,000 people – a drastic reduction from the roughly 10,000 that were incarcerated in Rikers at the beginning of the decade. After the council’s vote, Mayor Bill de Blasio proclaimed, “Today we made history: The era of mass incarceration is over.” However, the plan has attracted fierce criticism from opponents who say it doesn’t go far enough towards reforming the city’s justice system. A piece from Vox examines and explains the controversy over the plan. And an article in the New Republic, titled “Imagining a World Without Prisons,” dives deeper into the grassroots activism and organizing around Rikers, from the #CLOSERikers campaign to the No New Jails NYC coalition, as well as the broader prison abolition movement.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: a new piece from Vice looks at Menlo Park, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, where the city police force has a unit funded by Facebook to patrol the area surrounding its campus. This “deeply unusual relationship” has highlighted issues of policing ethics and racial and class disparities in a city overshadowed by immense technology wealth. And a piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer examines the intense monitoring system that keeps tens of thousands of people on probation across Pennsylvania at risk of incarceration.
In complex crime storytelling: this week, the New York Times looked back at wild true story of the biggest jewel heist in New York history. In October of 1964, the Star of India, a 563-carat sapphire the size of a golf ball, was snatched from its display case in the Museum of Natural History, along with more than 20 other precious gems. For several months, the brazen crime – and the unlikely culprits – captivated the tabloids and the public imagination. And the Huffington Post profiles Bresha Meadows, who, at 14 years old, killed her abusive father in what she saw as an act of self-defense. Meadows was tried in juvenile court and ultimately released for mental health treatment at 15. Her story serves as testament to the power of empathy and compassion in the criminal justice system, and the capacity of young people – even those convicted of violent crimes – to learn and change.
And in culture/true crime: the New Yorker looks at the latest work by public defender-turned-photographer Sara Bennett, whose “Bedroom Project” offers an unsparing look into the lives of women who have served decades-long prison sentences. And an upcoming documentary from The Marshall Project and Frontline (PBS) offers a powerful, poignant window into the lives of expectant mothers inside Alabama’s notorious Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.