Criminal Injustice

Andrew Harnik / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a 2013 memo last month written by his predecessor, Eric Holder. Sessions told prosecutors that not only will they abide by previously set mandatory minimum prison sentences, they would seek the harshest punishments possible.

Damian Dovarganes / AP

Automatic license plate readers – those cameras on police cars and light poles that capture plate numbers – have been in widespread use since the 1990s. But some argue regulations for how and how long police can use and store that information hasn’t kept up with the technology.

Eric Gay / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to renew the National Commission on Forensic Science in April, effectively ending federal efforts to standardize how crime scene evidence is interpreted by local law enforcement agencies. It's not because the problems were solved. 

Evan Vucci / AP

The Trump administration has promised a return to "tough on crime" criminal justice policies, including a recent memo that instructs federal prosecutors to reverse Obama-era reforms meant to curb mandatory minimum sentences.

Noah Berger / AP

At least 15 states have allowed police agencies to pilot surveillance drones in the name of public safety, including one that can carry weapons.

This week on 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris talks to the Cato Institute’s Matthew Feeney from his office in Washington D.C.

Matthew Apgar / The Chronicle via AP

The exposure of wrongful convictions began in 1989, and it upended the idea that guilty verdicts were always trustworthy. When there’s a wrongful conviction, what has to happen to get a court to exonerate someone?

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and show host David Harris talked to Marissa Boyers Bluestine, legal director for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

Matt Rourke / AP

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack "billed taxpayers for $34,000 worth of groceries, two leather cuff link boxes, flags and thousands of dollars of candy and snack bars while living at his state-operated mansion and collecting a $162,373 salary." 

Chicago Police Department / AP

The last few years have exposed major problems in policing: use of force, high-tech surveillance and a systemic lack of transparency. Some police tactics have even been called undemocratic, because the public isn’t involved on the front end.

The Many Ways To Find 90.5 WESA Journalism

May 4, 2017
Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

You know you can listen to WESA’s local reporting and NPR’s national coverage on the radio at 90.5 FM. But there are also many places to find our journalism in the digital world—you can livestream us when you’re away from the radio, follow our reporters on social media and dig into NPR’s smartphone apps.

Are High-Speed Police Chases Worth It?

Apr 25, 2017
Houston Chronicle/Nick de la Torre / via AP

High-speed chases down busy highways have become a news staple, as police attempt to arrest alleged criminals. But the people most often hurt by these scenes are the innocent civilians. Thousand have been injured or killed over the past few decades.

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, law professor and host David Harris talked to Dr. Geoff Alpert of the University of Carolina about whether these high-speed chases are really worth the cost.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

Americans who live in high-crime neighborhoods often get portrayed as anti-police, but an Urban Institute study released in February shows something different: strong respect for the law and a willingness to help with public safety.

United Artists / Library of Congress

If you’re a registered voter or have a driver’s license, odds are, you’re eligible for jury duty. But just because you’re called, doesn’t mean you’ll serve.

Research from the Jury Sunshine Project in North Carolina shows that some people get dismissed from the jury pool a lot more often than others.

On this week’s episode of 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and show host David Harris talked to Wake Forest School of Law professor Ron Wright, who’s finding those exclusions make a big difference in the outcome of some cases.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

In March 2015, then-Police Chief Cameron McLay committed to working with the U.S. Department of Justice as part of a six-city pilot project to help heal cities’ fractured relationships with communities of color.

Part of that agreement is set to include racial reconciliation training, which asks police and citizens to speak plainly about their issues.

Paul Sakuma / AP

Efforts to oversee police several decades ago resulted in hundreds of complaint review boards that investigate when an officer or civilian come forward about a specific case. But a new type of oversight is gaining traction – one in which appointed civilians look at whole departments and how they do their jobs day-to-day. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

When a group of people is given great power to watch over the rest of us, how do we make sure they use that power correctly?

Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board was created in 1997 to do just that. 

Charles Krupa / AP

President Donald Trump has called for a return to “law and order” policing and shown support for stop and frisk and heavy use of force. Many modern police leaders aren’t buying in.

This week on 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris looks at one non-member, nonpartisan organization that conducts field studies with real cops to find more nuanced data-driven ways to reduce crime.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Many American cities are struggling with police-community relations, and racial divisions are often the heart of the problem.

On this week's episode of 90.5 WESA's Criminal Injustice, Pitt law professor David Harris talks to David Kennedy of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Wystan / Flickr

From Obama-era task forces to widespread protests, the idea of community policing has become part of our national conversation. 

On this week's episode of the Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris talked to Jerry Clayton, the elected sheriff of Washtenaw County, Mich. Now in his third term, Clayton started overhauling the department of 400 officers eight years ago with service and sustainability in mind.

LM Otero / AP

In recent years, DNA tests have proved something surprising: people sometimes confess to terrible crimes that they definitely did not commit. One reason seems to be traditional American methods of police interrogation. 

Gerry Bloome / AP

Facial recognition systems look fast and effective in the movies and on television crime shows, but a new report shows that these identification tools suffer from some of the same biases that we’ve heard about when humans try to identify an alleged criminal.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

From police body cameras to consent decrees to excessive use of force, almost every legal question you can imagine is covered in University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris’ new podcast, Criminal (In)Justice. Inspired by heightened public interest in law enforcement and the legal system, Harris says he’s using the podcast to have in-depth conversation about issues pertinent to listeners.