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Criminal (In)justice

Problems with police, prosecutors and courts have people asking: is our criminal justice system broken? University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris interviews the people who know the system best, and hears their best ideas for fixing it. Criminal (In)justice is an independent production created in partnership with 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR News Station.
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Criminal (In)justice
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Feb 16, 2020

This episode originally appeared on the Criminal Injustice members feed on November 17, 2019. To hear all of our premium episodes as soon as they're released, become a $5 member at patreon.com/criminalinjustice


Michael Bloomberg makes a late entry to the Democratic presidential primary field. The billionaire media baron hasn't released a policy agenda for criminal justice, but he has a voluminous record from his time as New York City mayor -- and it's not good.

Feb 14, 2020

The chief prosecutor of St. Louis, a woman of color elected in 2016 on a reform platform, has faced intense pushback from the day she took office. Now Kim Gardner, the first African American to serve in the post, is suing the city and its police union under a federal law passed during Reconstruction to combat white supremacist vigilantism. Progressive prosecutors elected in other cities are rallying around Gardner, but can the suit succeed?

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Feb 11, 2020

Why are so many people dying in Mississippi state prisons? As with most systemic problems, the causes are many and complex.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Feb 6, 2020

Donald Trump's impeachment lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, makes a remarkable assertion: if the president believes his own reelection is in the national interest, then nothing he does in pursuit of that goal can be impeachable.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Feb 4, 2020

When HIV appeared in the U.S., it was a death sentence and a source of real fear. Now, with treatment, people living with the virus can live long and full lives. So why do laws still criminalize some actions of people living with HIV? Our guests are Jada Hicks, Staff Attorney for the Center for HIV Law and Policy, and Amir Sadeghi, the Center’s National Community Outreach Coordinator. They’ll discuss how the law still criminalize actions by people living with HIV which would cause no consequences for others.

Feb 1, 2020

Are you a Criminal Injustice patron? If not, here's a taste of what you're missing on the members feed! Unlock this episode and more exclusive content at patreon.com/criminalinjustice.


Kicking off the promotional tour for his new book, A City Divided, Dave spoke to a packed house at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library Lecture Hall on January 14. Criminal Injustice members can hear the full program, courtesy of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures.

Jan 28, 2020

At the direction of Donald Trump, U.S. Attorney General William Barr is launching a national commission on crime and law enforcement. It's not the first time a president has formed such a panel, but indications are that this one will take a very different approach than its predecessors.

Jan 23, 2020

A quick note from Dave with details on upcoming public appearances for A City Divided: Race, Fear and the Law in Police Confrontations. 

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Jan 21, 2020

Police suicides are on the rise. Just how bad is the problem? Why is it happening, and what can be done to stop it?

Sandy Jo MacArthur is a former Assistant Chief for the Los Angeles Police Department who now coordinates mental health training for all Los Angeles County law enforcement.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Jan 17, 2020

Florida may soon execute a man convicted of murder largely on the testimony of another man with whom he shared a jail cell. The problem? The informant, an ex-cop, has a decades-long long record of fraud and deception. A joint report by ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine says Paul Skalnik may be one of the most prolific jailhouse snitches in the country. But the use of such informants to bolster flimsy cases is widespread.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Jan 13, 2020

A City Divided, David Harris's book on the 2010 beating of Jordan Miles by Pittsburgh police, drops this week. You can hear him talk about the project in person at one of these upcoming appearances:

Jan 11, 2020

Years before Ferguson, the well-publicized beating of a black teen by three white police officers exposed a deep racial divide in Pittsburghers' perceptions of, and experiences with, law enforcement. On its tenth anniversary, David Harris explores the Jordan Miles case and its aftermath in a new book -- A City Divided: Race, Fear and the Law in Police Confrontations.

In this special episode, Dave sits down with producer Josh Raulerson to discuss what the incident can teach us about race, human perception, and the militarization of policing.

Catch Dave on tour:

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Jan 7, 2020

The National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice began just a year after Ferguson. The Initiative aimed to improve criminal justice outcomes and police-community relations in six cities. Now the results are in. Did it work? And what can we learn as we look for ways to improve our whole system?

Jesse Jannetta is a Senior Policy Fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where he leads projects on prison and jail re-entry, community-based violence reduction strategies, and community supervision. He co-authored a report assessing the Initiative’s implementation phase.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Dec 31, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns with new episodes on January 7, 2020. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared June 12, 2018.

We often hear that police work requires split-second responses to keep officers and the public safe. But this might be less true than we think. Can we build a better cop, by training them to slow things down? Emily Owens and her colleagues have produced new research that shows that, with a simple and inexpensive intervention, police officers get better outcomes with less use of force.

Dec 24, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns with new episodes on January 7, 2020. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared Sep 3, 2019.

Many people make their social media posts public.  Everyone can see them, like a signed billboard visible anywhere in the world. So, what should we think when we learn that *some* police officers, in some departments, have been posting racist messages or memes endorsing violence, visible to anyone on the Internet? 

Emily Baker-White is founder of The Plain View Project, an organization that gathered and analyzed thousands of social media posts by police officers, from many police departments. The results reveal much – none of it positive – about the racial and other attitudes of some officers.

Dec 17, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns with new episodes on January 7, 2020. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared Oct 30, 2018.


With every police shooting of an unarmed civilian, we hear calls for civilian oversight of police. But just creating an oversight agency is no magic bullet. What does a civilian review board need to succeed? What’s the evidence on the success of civilian oversight? Our guest, Brian Corr, is the President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. He’ll talk to us about what makes for success – and what causes these attempts at reform to fail.

Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement: Assessing the Evidence (2016)

Dec 15, 2019

Earlier this month, police killed four people on a South Florida highway: two robbery suspects, their apparent hostage, and a bystander. Whether they were right to do so is being fiercely debated. But as Dave tells the Washington Post, the key question is whether the officers' actions were in line with department policies. 

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Dec 10, 2019

Criminal Injustice returns with new episodes on January 7, 2020. Until then, we're reposting some of our favorite interviews. This episode originally appeared February 19, 2019.


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.

Dec 8, 2019

Are you a Criminal Injustice patron? If not, here's a taste of what you're missing on the members feed. Unlock this episode and more exclusive content at patreon.com/criminalinjustice.


Sen. Cory Booker has mostly progressive positions on criminal justice reform, but the one that really distinguishes him is his emphasis on aging prison populations and what happens to former inmates after they've left the system.

Dec 3, 2019

Recommended: NPR's November 4 report on the release of hundreds of prisoners in Oklahoma after their sentences were reduced by the state's Pardon and Parole Board.

Nov 26, 2019

Did you know that police officers in eight states also double as prosecutors? Dave recommends The Appeal's October 10 report by Julia Rock and Harry August.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Nov 23, 2019

Are you a Criminal Injustice patron? If not, here's a taste of what you're missing on the members feed! Unlock this episode and more exclusive content at patreon.com/criminalinjustice.


A few days after jumping into the Democratic presidential primary field, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg disavowed and apologized for stop-and-frisk, the law enforcement policy that defined his administration. But only a few years ago, Bloomberg was warning of dire consequences if a federal court were to block the practice. In this members-only bonus episode, posted just after Bloomberg's campaign launch but before his 180 on stop-and-frisk, Dave underscores just how wrong Bloomberg was.

Nov 19, 2019

In the U.S., our prisons are full of people raised in the poorest neighborhoods, who only had access to the worst schools. So what happens when they can enter a first-class college program – inside prison?

On this episode, Wesley Caines, an alum of the program and now Chief of Staff at Bronx Defenders, and Lynn Novick, award-winning documentary filmmaker, discuss College Behind Bars, premiering Nov. 25 and 26 on PBS.

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

Nov 16, 2019

Four Pittsburgh teens, accused of a crime they did not commit, spent months in jail despite having an ironclad alibi. What happened? Dave discusses the case, and other criminal justice news, on 90.5 WESA's The Confluence.

Nov 12, 2019

Don't miss Dave's interview next week (11/19) with filmmaker Lynn Novick, whose new documentary explores higher education from the perspective of incarcerated people.

In place of another interview this week, we're taking a moment to clear our backlog of listener questions, new developments in stories we've covered, and show news. Producer Josh Raulerson joins Dave for updates and analysis on:

  • the federal death penalty
  • Jeffery Epstein's autopsy
  • aftermath of the Amber Guyger verdict
  • Donald Trump's tax returns
  • police body cameras
  • facial recognition and mass protest
  • "Marsy's Law" legislation in multiple states

Support Criminal Injustice at $5/month to unlock extra bonus episodes and more on the Members feed: patreon.com/criminalinjustice

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