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Eddie Ellis: Legacy of a Prison Reformer

By Curtis Stephen

The first thing you noticed about Edwin (“Eddie”) Benjamin Ellis Jr. was his husky, low-pitched voice. But for more than two decades, it was his very presence inside the public policy arena that marked the sonic equivalent of an ear-splitting roar.

As a New York-based activist, Ellis—who died of cancer last month at the age of 72—was the host and executive producer of “On The Count!,” the groundbreaking weekly series that airs on WBAI-FM in New York, and covers a broad range of criminal justice issues.

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The Lessons of Homicide Watch

By Laura Amico

I built Homicide Watch D.C.  at the intersection of community memorial, criminal justice, and journalism to meet these needs. The response was instantaneous. Five hundred page views in the first month. Then 5,000 another. Then 500,000 another.

It has been an honor for the past four years to do this work. As I prepare for my next challenge-- an editor position with the Boston Globe—I’ve gathered seven of my lessons learned from starting Homicide Watch to share.

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Can We Reduce The Prison Population By 25%?

By Marc Mauer and Nazgol Ghandnoosh

While some proponents of continued high rates of incarceration warn of the prospect of a “crime wave” if populations are reduced, we found no evidence for such an outcome in these states. During this time frame, a period in which crime rates were declining nationally, these three states generally achieved greater reductions in violent and property crimes than national averages.

Our findings suggest that it is possible to achieve substantial prison population reductions – much greater than the very modest 4% reduction that state prisons have achieved since their 2009 peak – without adverse effects on public safety.

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Hackers and Journalists Unite!

By Graham Kates

Hackers are often lumped into two groups: those who tamper with our security and privacy, and those who use their skills to spotlight holes in the Internet’s infrastructure. They’re routinely vilified and prosecuted, and also aggressively recruited by the government to help protect data from cybercriminals, foreign state intrusions and other nefarious forces. But at last weekend’s 10th biennial Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE X) conference, one of the premiere get-togethers of the digital world, it was clear that the nefarious forces the cyberworld is now most concerned with are lodged within our own government.

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Cell Phone Ruling Is No Threat to Effective Policing

By Caleb Mason

Fourth Amendment cases give us great past-vs.-present riddles, little Zen koans testing our constitutional intuitions about technology. How is an email message like a paper-and-envelope letter? How is a computer hard drive like a file cabinet? How is a thermal-imaging scope like a pair of binoculars? How is a cell-phone tower like a human phone-company operator? And now: how is a cell phone like a pack of cigarettes?

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The End of Penal ‘One-Upmanship’

By Derek Cohen & Marc Levin

The National Academies exhaustive report, “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences,released last month, covers nearly the entire body of scholarship on the causes of the incarceration boom. The causes, as identified by the authors, derive from a charged political arena favoring longer sentences, the trend towards harsher methods of punishment, and the rapid development of increasingly punitive drug laws. Certainly, the last four decades of criminal justice policy reflect this. 

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