This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: This week, the news has been dominated by the outbreak of COVID-19, and what it means for courts, police, prisons, and the criminal justice as a whole. A piece by Emily Bazelon for the New York Times outlines the risks posed by the virus as some court systems proceed with business as usual. An op-ed in the Washington Post calls on government officials to “take immediate steps to limit the risk posed by mass confinement, including releasing those detained on bail, along with elderly prisoners who pose little danger to the public.” A piece from The Appeal explains why reducing prison and jail populations is key to “flattening the curve” of the outbreak; and a piece from the Marshall Project focuses on tracking prisons’ response to the virus. And from the New Yorker, a Q&A with epidemiologist Homer Venters, formerly the chief medical officer on Rikers Island, offers some guidance as to how prisons and jails around the country can act quickly to contain the virus’s spread.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the New York Times follows Julius Irving, an organizer based in Gainesville, Florida who works to register new voters. Many of the people he interacts with are formerly incarcerated, and share a deep mistrust of politicians and skepticism about becoming part of the political process – not to mention the logistical and bureaucratic hurdles they face in attempting to register. And a piece from The Atlantic focuses on “crime-free housing” programs, which make illegal activity by any resident or guest, anywhere near a rental property, grounds for eviction. Crime-free housing programs, the article argues, work well until they don’t, by putting landlords in close partnerships with police and allowing them to mete out punishments for crimes tenants may not have committed.
In complex crime storytelling: A piece from New York Magazine focuses on the murder of Tessa Majors, the Barnard College freshman who was killed last December while walking through a park near campus. When news came out that the main suspect was a 13-year-old boy, the murder immediately drew comparisons to the infamous Central Park Five case a generation before. But the differences between the two cases, and the way the community reacted to them, were also clearly apparent: now, the focus is on the system as a whole, on the troubled relationship between Columbia and Harlem, and on the failure of the NYPD to patrol the area more effectively. The piece outlines both the similarities and differences between the two, and what the story says about New York City today: “every generation, a crime tells a new story about New York. The murder of Tessa Majors is ours.” And a piece from The Atlantic focuses on the story of Jake Millison, a rancher from the rugged mountain town of Gunnison, Colorado. When Jake went missing in May of 2015, the local police didn’t think much of it; his family claimed that he had skipped town. But something didn’t sit right with Jake’s friends, who fought to make people pay attention – and to expose the family’s role in Jake’s mysterious disappearance.
And in culture/true crime: The New York Times offers a list of true-crime favorites – books, podcasts, movies and TV – to binge on while social-distancing.