This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: A new piece from the Atlantic profiles John Creuzot, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas. As a progressive prosecutor in a Republican state, Creuzot – a longtime reformer, critic of mass incarceration, and advocate of restorative justice – has become a lightning rod for the national debate over how far prosecutors can go in trying to fix a broken system from the inside. Courthouse News reports that on Monday, former San Francisco DA George Gascón officially entered the race for Los Angeles District Attorney, announcing that he will challenge sitting DA Jackie Lacey for her office. The race has attracted national attention as its outcome will likely set the pace and tone for future reform efforts throughout the state. And the Washington Post reports that across the country in Northern Virginia, DA races in some of the state’s most populous jurisdictions have become referendums on a variety of criminal justice reform issues, from the death penalty to marijuana prosecutions to cooperation with immigration authorities.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A new piece for the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica examines the rural policing crisis in Alaska, where just 38 officers police all of the state’s small village communities. In Russian Mission, a remote settlement along the Yukon Delta that hasn’t had a permanent police officer since 2005, criminals have literally gotten away with murder, and vigilante justice is common. And a piece from the New Republic looks at the challenges and restrictions to voting that convicted felons across the country continue to face. In at least 30 states, from California to Mississippi, former felons are required to pay outstanding court-ordered fees or fines – often totaling thousands of dollars – before they can cast a ballot. Critics of these laws argue that they are just modern incarnations of poll taxes, designed to disenfranchise minority voters.
In complex crime storytelling: A new piece from Longreads looks at the limits of the neuroscience of crime, a field that has flourished in recent years. Researchers have posited different neurological explanations for a variety of criminal behaviors, attempting to explain everything from psychopathy to domestic violence in terms of brain abnormalities. But the science isn’t perfect, and it can only go so far: “When it comes to criminal behavior, what brain activity is normal or abnormal is not a biological question. It’s a question of social norms, and this is a fatal flaw in the neuroscience of crime.”
And in culture/true crime: This week, the Washington Post Magazine published a series of photos by Joseph Rodriguez, himself a former Rikers Island prisoner, who captured the first few weeks of 58-year-old Scott Ortiz’s transition home after serving 15 years in a New York prison. Also from the Washington Post Magazine, a selection of short personal essays and art by formerly or currently incarcerated Americans. The works paint a powerful, poignant picture of the experience of incarceration and the challenges of reentry.