This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: Pieces from HuffPost and the Washington Post highlight renewed efforts at police reform in Phoenix, Arizona – where, earlier this month, the Justice Department announced a sweeping civil rights investigation into the Phoenix PD – and in Cleveland, Ohio, where residents are now taking a lead in transforming their police department. And a piece from the New Yorker asks, “Did last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests change anything?”. In the wake of last summer’s protests, many elected officials, “true to their sensibilities,” “quickly tugged the low-hanging fruit of symbolic transformation,” embracing rhetoric and superficial gestures over substantive policy change. But regardless, the piece argues, the country is still “dramatically different” than it was a year ago. On crime, for example, the “insistence of the BLM movement that we link violence to social deprivation has for now changed public views.” According to recent polling, nearly 60% of Americans see crime as an “extremely” or very serious problem in the US; but, despite conservatives’ best efforts to blame progressives for the rising murder rate, 75% believe that progressive solutions – “increasing funding to build economic opportunities in poor communities” – could help to reduce violence crime – a significantly larger share than the 55% who pointed to increased spending on police.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from the Atlantic highlights “the real cost of a prison phone call.” Especially during the pandemic, as many facilities have suspended or restricted visitation, phone calls have provided a vital line of connection for millions of incarcerated people in the US. But for many, such communication has been obstructed by exorbitant costs, with some states charging as much as $10 for a 15-minute call. And a piece from NBC News, in collaboration with the Marshall Project, reveals another tragic consequence of the pandemic behind bars: rising suicides. Nationwide, prison suicides have been rising for years, and experts worry that worsening conditions and staff shortages brought on by the pandemic may accelerate that rise. Delays and gaps in data reporting, however, make it difficult to tell: the most recent national figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show an 85% increase in state and federal prison suicides from 2001 to 2018, but data for 2020 won’t come out until next year. “Incarceration is not only difficult for someone who comes in with mental health needs,” writes Leah Wang at the Prison Policy Initiative, “but it creates and exacerbates disconnection, despair, and overall psychological distress. Prison is basically a mental health crisis in and of itself.”
In complex crime storytelling: A piece from Deseret News recounts the wild true story behind one of the longest fugitive runs in US history. One morning in the fall of 1971, a Chicano activist then known as Luis Archuleta shot police officer Daril Cinquanta during a brief confrontation on a Denver sidewalk. Archuleta ran, leaving Cinquanta bleeding in the street. This random encounter would forever change the course of both men’s lives, permanently linking the two in a decades-long, cross-country game of cat-and-mouse. And a story from the Atlantic explores “grief, conspiracy theories, and one family’s search for meaning in the two decades since 9/11.” Bobby McIlvaine died in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, at the age of 26. 20 years later, the pain of his loss still endures; but grief over Bobby’s death has affected his loved ones in very different ways. The piece, written by a friend of the McIlvaines, captures one family’s journey through devastating, world-shattering loss; their quest to make meaning out of senseless tragedy; and what it means to come out the other side.
In culture/true crime: A piece from the New Yorker highlights “the fascinating experiment captured in ‘Philly DA.’” The PBS series follows Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s progressive district attorney, as he works to reform the criminal-justice system from within. NPR reviews the new memoir The Prisoner, by South Korean novelist, pro-democracy intellectual, and former political prisoner Hwang Sok-yong. “Cinematic, riveting, elegiac,” the book vividly recounts Hwang’s literal and metaphorical incarceration, capturing his experiences of prison as both place and state of mind. And, in a piece for MovieMaker, documentarian NC Heikin discusses the making of her latest film: Life & Life, a story of crime, punishment, and redemption told through the lens of Reggie Austin, a “likeable, surprisingly honest” jazz musician who spent more than 35 years behind bars.