This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: This week, the Los Angeles Times officially endorsed George Gascón for LA County DA. The contentious race between Gascón and incumbent Jackie Lacey has intensified in recent weeks, the latest battleground in the larger nationwide debate over police reform. With less than a month to go before Election Day, the LA Times looks at the mega-donors and police unions that have pumped more than $12 million into the race. A piece from The Intercept focuses on Portland, where four months of protests over police violence have upended a heated mayoral race. In an interview with Jacobin Magazine, historian John Clegg discusses the “economic origins of mass incarceration,” while Christian Science Monitor outlines the long, fraught history of “law and order” politics.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: Last week, a Kentucky grand jury declined to charge any of the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death, sparking nationwide confusion and outrage. Grand jury proceedings are typically kept secret, but on Monday, the New York Times reported that one of the jurors had filed a court motion seeking the release of last week’s transcripts and permission from a judge to speak publicly on the case. The juror contended that Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron had misrepresented the jury’s deliberations and failed to offer the panel the option of indicting the two officers responsible for Taylor’s death. A piece from The New Yorker focuses on Cameron’s “sins of omission” and the “empty facts” of the grand jury decision, while the Washington Post breaks down and corrects the misinformation surrounding the Breonna Taylor case. Finally, a piece from The Atlantic centers on the Oath Keepers, a secretive pro-Trump militia group that has recruited thousands of soldiers, veterans, and police.
In complex crime storytelling: A piece from the New York Times focuses on Minneapolis, where, in the immediate aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, a veto-proof majority of city councilmembers pledged to defund and dismantle the city’s police department. It was a powerful statement that reverberated across the country, delighting activists and invigorating calls for far-reaching structural change. But three months later, with support for Black Lives Matter cooling in national polls, police reforms have stalled in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill; in Minneapolis, the most ambitious policy efforts meant to address police violence have all but collapsed. The piece outlines how the councilmembers’ pledge to “end policing as we know” – “a mantra to meet the city’s pain” – became a case study in “how quickly political winds can shift, and what happens when idealistic efforts at structural change meet the legislative process and public opposition.” And, in a piece for The Atlantic, a former public defender, policy reformer, and self-proclaimed prison abolitionist reflects on her own experience of navigating the criminal justice system she spent a career working to change. When a stranger broke into her bedroom in the middle of the night, she was forced to confront head-on the difficult questions that inevitably complicate conversations around reform: how do we weigh the need for public safety against the evils of police brutality, mass criminalization, and the prison-industrial complex? When every aspect of the system is broken, how do we move towards change? And what does it mean to be a prison abolitionist when your own home isn’t safe?
And in culture/true crime: The New York Times reviews “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” a new exhibition at New York City’s MoMA PS1. Featuring works by more than 40 currently or formerly incarcerated artists, many of them crafted from found materials or scavenged trash – a collage of shredded commissary papers and a torn-up inmate uniform, held together with floor wax; a 40-foot-wide tapestry pieced together from prison bedsheets and transfer-printed using hair gel on a spoon – the show seeks to highlight the creativity and ingenuity that thrive behind bars, and to define what guest curator Nicole R. Fleetwood has termed “carceral aesthetics”: an art shaped by “radically constricted space, an untethered institutional time, and material scarcity.” And the Wall Street Journal profiles Garrett Bradley, the artist and filmmaker behind “Time,” a Sundance-winning documentary about mass incarceration and the devastating impacts of the prison-industrial complex. The film follows one New Orleans woman, Fox Richardson, as she fights to free her husband Rob from a 60-year prison sentence. Swirled together from years’ worth of MiniDV tapes, “Time” spans more than two decades in the Richardsons’ life, from the early days of their marriage to Rob’s eventual release from prison and their joyful reunion after 21 years apart.