Criminal Injustice

Don’t just read. Listen. In the Criminal (In)justice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris dissects problems with police, prosecutors and courts.

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#105 Changing Use of Force Law

In the last five years, we’ve seen case after case of police killing unarmed civilians – even people running away. Usually, officers do not face charges; when they do, juries often acquit them. Does the law governing police use of force favor police?

Our guest, Professor Cynthia Lee, is one of the leading thinkers on use of force law, and she’ll discuss proposed changes.

#104 From Mass Incarceration, to E-carceration

Mass incarceration remains the hallmark of the US justice system, as it has been for decades. In the last ten years, in some states, we see less jail in low-level cases and more electronic monitoring. But does this just trade one form of custody for another?

Our guest, law professor Chaz Arnett, reveals the new world of e-carceration. He’s the author of “Virtual Shackles: Electronic Surveillance and the Adultification of Juvenile Courts” and “From Decarceration to E-carceration.”

#103 The Redemption Project

The American criminal justice system is all about finding the bad guys, convicting them, and penalizing them — often by sending them to prison. But what does that do to help victims restore themselves? Can we imagine a system not of criminal justice, but restorative justice?

Van Jones is a CNN contributor and host of The Redemption Project.

#102 Prosecution at the Crossroads

American prosecutors have always been powerful figures in our justice system: they decide the charges, and offer the plea bargains. But our guest says they have become far too powerful – resulting in mass incarceration and the wrecking of human lives over trivial offenses.

Emily Bazelon, best-selling author and a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, says it’s time for this to change. She’s the author of “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Criminal Justice and End Mass Incarceration.”


#101 The Racial Impact of Juror Exclusion

Jury service is THE way that members of the public participate in the criminal justice system. But who gets to serve? Are certain racial or ethnic groups excluded, and what’s the effect of these exclusions in the courtroom? An update on the groundbreaking “Jury Sunshine Project” from Professor Ronald Wright of Wake Forest University School of Law; he’s one of the co-leaders of the Jury Sunshine Project in North Carolina.

#100 How High-Tech Policing Fails

When policing has a major crisis – the 1980s crime wave, or the killings of unarmed black men by police in 2014 and 2015 – we often grab for a high-tech fix. But technology seldom becomes the silver bullet we hope for. Our guest has put this trend under the microscope. We talk with veteran investigative journalist Matt Stroud about his new book, Thin Blue Lie: The Failure of High-Tech Policing, published in April of 2019.

#99: 21 Principles to Change Prosecution

Americans know that if they want a better criminal justice system, prosecutors must drive change. We’ve seen the result in election of more progressive prosecutors across the country. But what should this new wave of prosecutors do? What policies should shape their priorities?

Our guest Miriam Krinsky is a former prosecutor and now executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, which has issued a new report, “21 Principles for 21st Century Prosecutor.”

#98 Holistic Criminal Defense

We try to solve the problem of mass incarceration by eliminating mandatory sentences, or by getting rid of cash bail. But what about a better method of providing criminal defense services? Could this cut prison and jail populations, AND secure public safety? There’s a way to do this: use a holistic model for criminal defense services.

Our guest is James Anderson, the director of the Justice Policy Program and the Institute for Civil Justice, and a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation, in Pittsburgh. He’s one of the authors of “The Effects of Holistic Defense on Criminal Justice Outcomes,” which will be published in the Harvard Law Review.