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Lessons of the Irish ‘Troubles:’ Settling for Imperfect Justice

By Robin L. Barton

But those promises have been undermined by court orders requiring the disclosure of notes on, and recordings of, the interviews to British authorities. (This Stanford Law Review article does a good job spelling out the legal process and theories that resulted in the orders to release the interviews.) British authorities are using the disclosed information to open investigations into certain disappearances and murders from the Troubles.

For example, on the basis of this information, Gerry Adams, president of the Irish political party Sinn Fein, was brought in for questioning in connection with the abduction and murder of  Jean McConville. He was eventually released without being charged. British authorities did officially charge Ivor Bell with aiding and abetting the McConville murder. They’ve also reopened investigations into at least 16 unsolved disappearances from the Troubles.

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Deep, Justice-Related Thoughts About Reality TV

By Adair Iacono

When Orange Is the New Black started getting lots of attention, I was struck by the perversity of it all: millions of Americans are incarcerated right now, many for crimes far less serious, knowing, and incredibly avoidable than carrying drug money, and it’s only a marketable story when people realize it can happen to a pretty, white, educated woman? Viewed in a certain light, Piper Kerman’s story is an instance of justice being color- and class-blind—a system success story, in that it demonstrates that punishment can sometimes be meted out just as harshly to a woman like her as it is daily to people of color. Increased severity is not the way most of us would hope to see the American justice system achieve racial parity, I grant you, but it is one way to go about it.

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Changing the Priorities of a ‘Prison-Happy Country’

By Walter C. Holton, Jr.

We've done many good things over the last 20 years to reduce violent crime. More communities across our country now employ strategic approaches to improve safety, ranging from community policing to the current Smart on Crime initiative. We should congratulate ourselves for these achievements. 

But we have made mistakes. One big one is promising states money to build prisons if they agreed to lengthen prison sentences. They did. Prisons sprang forth and have filled. We have incarcerated prisoners at a world-record pace, taking in the violent and the non-violent. 

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Prop 47: As California Goes, So Goes the Nation?

By Barry Krisberg

Last night, Californians resoundingly approved a ballot initiative—Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act—that will not only have a major impact on California’s prison population, but have significant resonance across the U.S.

The initiative, which passed with 58.5 percent of the vote, changes many crimes from felonies, which generally require prison terms, to misdemeanors that usually carry penalties of probation, fines or very short jail time. Most instances of drug possession and property crime under $950 are no longer felonies. Current prisoners who were charged with these crimes can now petition to have their sentences reduced.

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Learning in Criminal Justice: Small Cases, Big Lessons

By James Doyle

When criminal justice fails in a spectacular way—for example, in a wrongful conviction discovered after an innocent man has served 20 years—people find it easy to see the point of using the model employed by the National Transportation Safety Board: investigate the event and see if we can learn some lessons. 

This is the thrust of the recent Special Report of the National Institute of Justice, Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews.

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How One Community Saved Its Troubled Youth

By Rev. Rubén Austria

What would happen if community stakeholders in U.S. urban neighborhoods plagued by the highest rates of youth crime and incarceration were given the opportunity to intervene early— and often— on behalf of young people caught up in the juvenile justice system? One answer to that question has now been provided in New York’s South Bronx neighborhood, where Community Connections for Youth (CCFY), a local non-profit organization, received a $1.1 million grant three years ago from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DJCS), under the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA).

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Refusing to Testify Against Your Church

By Caleb Mason

The Crime Report's readers may have heard about Perez v. Paragon Contractors. It’s a recent case from Utah, in which a federal judge ruled that a member of a fundamentalist Mormon church could not be compelled to testify about the church’s alleged illegal use of child labor on its farms. Why? The guy said it was against his religion to talk about “church matters” with non-Mormons.

I think the decision was wrong. Badly wrong. And most of the commentary on it—on both sides—has been superficial, and naive about criminal investigation. So I’d like to offer three things, today, and tomorrow: Today, a little background on the investigation and the constitutional issues in play; and tomorrow, some prosecutorial perspective about this investigation and criminal investigations generally.

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Freeing Youths From Solitary Isn’t Enough

By Angelo R. Pinto

Solitary confinement amounts to government-sponsored torture. Individuals in solitary confinement are held for 23 hours a day, for months and even years. They are denied the most basic human contact, fed through a slot in a door, and suffer from a lack of therapeutic and educational services. What is particularly startling is that children, people with mental illness, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations are subject to such isolated confinement. Equally alarming is the length of time, often months and even years, that these individuals endure in extreme isolation.

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TCR at a Glance

To the Understanding

November 27, 2014

This essay, by a California juvenile inmate named Noel, was originally published by The Beat Within, a juvenile justice system writing wo...

What the Ferguson Grand Jury Missed

commentary November 25, 2014

Why did the killing of a young black man by a police officer capture our attention—and challenge the national conscience?

Crime and Prison Population Fall in N.C.

new & notable November 21, 2014

A series of justice reinvestment reforms in North Carolina have created a more efficient system, according to a report by the non-profit ...