This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: The Week outlines the spate of criminal justice reform laws set to take effect this week in states nationwide. A piece from the New York Times Magazine documents California’s efforts to parole more of the 400,000 “lifers” incarcerated across the state. A lifer hoping to be released must first make his case in a grueling parole hearing, “something like an ordeal of the soul, an investigation of every stage of an inmate’s life from birth onward.” And the Chicago Tribune reports that on December 31, with recreational marijuana set to become legal in Illinois the next day, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that he was pardoning more than 11,000 people with low-level weed convictions.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: a piece from ProPublica examines the unique power of sheriffs in Alabama to set their own rules and answer only to voters, even when their actions violate both state law and the Constitution. In some counties, sheriffs refuse to cover the full costs of their inmates’ health care needs, forcing the inmates into staggering medical debt and often tanking their credit while they are still behind bars. And a piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer looks at Pennsylvania’s so-called “probation trap,” whereby thousands of Pennsylvanians who are on probation or parole become trapped in indefinite detention – sometimes for a week or two, sometimes for more than a year – with few rights and often without any allegation that they’ve committed a crime.
In complex crime storytelling: In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Cyntoia Brown-Long voices her support for 17-year-old Chrystul Kizer, who was charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 33-year-old man who had sexually abused her multiple times, and is now facing life in prison. In 2006, Brown-Long received a life sentence for killing the man who had trafficked her for sex; she was 16 years old at the time. Brown-Long’s sentence was eventually commuted, but it is now “painfully clear,” she writes, that her clemency “has not translated into larger-scale change.”
And in culture/true crime: The Atlantic reviews Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning, which elaborates on allegations from last year’s documentary, addresses some of the fallout, and incorporates – and interrogates – the assertions of R. Kelly’s defenders. And, also from The Atlantic, a review of Netflix’s You, a darkly funny melodrama that “combines the best elements of murder-mystery series, Millennial sitcoms, and revenge fantasies.”