New Thinking, from the Center for Court Innovation

Center for Court Innovation

New Thinking is a podcast about justice—and injustice—in America. It’s about the people working to fix a justice system that falls so short of our ideals, and the people organizing to build something new in its place. It’s hosted by Matt Watkins and produced by the Center for Court Innovation.

All Episodes

Eyal Press contends there are entire areas of life we’ve delegated to “dirty workers”—functions we’ve declared necessary, but that we strive to keep hidden. In his new book, Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America, Press points to the transformation of jails and prisons into the country’s largest mental health … Continue reading The Question of Dirty Work →

Nov 22

39 min 31 sec

Justice reforms often exclude people with charges involving violence, even though these are the same people most likely to be incarcerated and to be in the most need of the programs and treatment reform can bring. But a felony court in Manhattan is offering alternatives to incarceration, regardless of charge. Can a treatment-first approach be … Continue reading Taking Reform Out of Its Comfort Zone →

Oct 25

34 min 13 sec

An audio snapshot from an emergency rally demanding immediate measures to release people from New York City’s Rikers Island jail. Eleven people have died in the custody of the city’s jail system this year as Rikers’ chief medical officer warns of “a collapse in basic jail operations.”

Sep 22

10 min 11 sec

Hurt people hurt people. That’s not an excuse for harm, but it fuels much of the criminal legal system. At 19, Marlon Peterson was the unarmed lookout on a robbery where two people were killed. Peterson spent a decade behind bars. He writes about those years, and the childhood in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, that preceded … Continue reading Cages Don’t Help Us Heal →

Aug 10

30 min 51 sec

In 1996, 16-year-old Reginald Dwayne Betts was sentenced to nine years in prison for a carjacking. He spent much of that time reading, and eventually writing. After prison, he went to Yale Law School and published a memoir and three books of poems. But he’s still wrestling with what “after prison” means. This is a … Continue reading One of These Days We Might Find Us Some Free: Reginald Dwayne Betts →

Jul 20

42 min 59 sec

In her new book, historian Elizabeth Hinton highlights a “crucible period” of often violent rebellions in the name of the Black freedom struggle beginning in 1968. Initiated in almost every instance by police violence, the rebellions—dismissed as “riots”—have been largely written out of the history of the civil rights era. Hinton contends the period is … Continue reading The Cycle: Police Violence, Black Rebellion →

Jun 30

37 min 36 sec

One of every four people killed by police is experiencing a mental health emergency. Changing how we respond to crisis in the moment, and to widespread, ongoing mental health needs, means deferring to the leadership of people with lived experience and putting racial equity at the center of every reform. On today’s episode, listening to … Continue reading Policing, Race, and a Crisis in Mental Health →

Jun 1

38 min 3 sec

What’s the most effective way to reduce the chance of an arrest in the future? A new study suggests it’s shrinking the size of the justice system in the here and now. Boston D.A. Rachael Rollins and the director of NYU’s Public Safety Lab, Anna Harvey, talk about the benefits of not prosecuting low-level charges—an … Continue reading Does the Criminal Justice System Cause Crime? →

Apr 26

36 min 14 sec

Journalist Maurice Chammah says the federal execution spree during the final weeks of the Trump presidency is evidence of the death penalty’s continued decline, not its resurgence. Chammah is the author of the new book, Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty. Chammah tracks the long arc of the … Continue reading How Will the Death Penalty End? →

Mar 25

36 min 45 sec

Homer Venters has been inspecting prisons, jails, and ICE detention centers for COVID-compliance almost since the start of the pandemic. The former chief medical officer for New York City jails says what were already substandard health systems and abusive environments have deteriorated sharply, where even people positive for the virus can languish unseen for days. … Continue reading COVID-19 Behind Bars: A Pandemic of Neglect →

Feb 2

38 min 41 sec

How effective is therapy or treatment when it’s used instead of incarceration, and what are the challenges to conducting it inside the coercive context of the criminal justice system? New Thinking host Matt Watkins is joined by clinical psychologist Jacob Ham who works with justice-involved young people affected by trauma, and John Jay College’s Deborah … Continue reading Heal and Punish? Treatment and Trauma Inside a Coercive System →

Jan 19

33 min 27 sec

Josie Duffy Rice says remaking the justice system is a generational struggle, but it’s one progressives are winning. The well-known criminal justice commentator and activist, president of the news site The Appeal and host of its podcast, Justice in America, explains why she believes in the power of big ideas and offers her take on the … Continue reading Josie Duffy Rice: Fighting a Big Fight →

Dec 2020

41 min 17 sec

Why do some young people carry guns? It’s a difficult question to answer. People in heavily-policed neighborhoods with high rates of violence aren’t generally enthusiastic about answering questions about gun use. In this special episode, hear from three of the authors of a groundbreaking year-long study into young people and guns. The findings are disturbing, … Continue reading Guns, Young People, Hidden Networks →

Nov 2020

48 min 53 sec

The movement to reform prisons is about as old as prisons themselves. But what is the ultimate goal of reform of a system like the criminal justice system? Victoria Law and Maya Schenwar contend that many of today’s most popular reforms—such as electronic monitoring and locked-down treatment centers—are extending, rather than countering, the justice system’s … Continue reading Reform and Its Discontents →

Oct 2020

34 min 23 sec

While crime of nearly every kind has been declining amid COVID-19, in cities across the country, gun violence and homicides have been the exceptions. Long-time researcher and former Obama DOJ official, Thomas Abt, says there are proven solutions to reduce the violence. But he says both the right and the left fail to grasp the … Continue reading What We All Get Wrong About Gun Violence →

Oct 2020

30 min 9 sec

The alleged use of a $20 counterfeit bill, selling loose cigarettes on a street corner, a broken brake light—think how many police encounters that ended with the killing of a Black person began with misdemeanor enforcement. If you want to shrink the role of police and the justice system, misdemeanors are the best place to … Continue reading Misdemeanors, Race, and a History of Injustice →

Aug 2020

37 min 48 sec

Restorative justice is about repairing harm. But for Black Americans, what is there to be restored to? This episode features a roundtable with eight members of the Center for Court Innovation’s Restorative Justice in Schools team. They spent three years embedded in five Brooklyn high schools—all five schools are overwhelmingly Black, and all five had … Continue reading Restorative Justice is Racial Justice →

Jul 2020

1 hr 4 min

The death of George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for close to nine minutes has triggered a wave of long-held anger and revulsion across the country. Vincent Southerland, the executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU, compares Floyd’s death—in public, in … Continue reading Justice and the Virus: Racial Patterns →

Jun 2020

20 min 9 sec

With justice systems across the country scrambling to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot of talk about what justice is going to look like when the virus ends. But what has the response actually consisted of—especially from prisons and jails, which have emerged as epicenters of the virus—and is there any reason … Continue reading Justice and the Virus: Rachel Barkow →

May 2020

28 min 23 sec

The infection rate from COVID-19 in New York City’s Rikers Island jails is currently almost 30 times the rate for the U.S. as a whole. As the city struggled to get people out from behind bars—criticized both for moving too slowly, and for even contemplating releasing anyone early from a jail sentence—it turned to a … Continue reading Getting People Off Rikers Island in a Pandemic →

May 2020

26 min 12 sec

In cities across the United States, the effects of the coronavirus are not being experienced equally. Whether it’s infection rates, deaths, or job losses, people of low income and people of color are being hit hardest. In New York City, many of those effects are concentrated in communities where public housing is located. The Center … Continue reading The Inequities of COVID-19: A Focus on Public Housing →

Apr 2020

17 min 18 sec

Bruce Western’s book, Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison, is, as its title suggests, about the challenges confronting people re-entering society after a period behind bars. But it’s also inevitably about the deep harms of incarceration itself. And moving further backward still, it’s about the problems and life-histories that leave people vulnerable to the … Continue reading Criminal Justice as Social Justice: Bruce Western →

Feb 2020

34 min 29 sec

In 1996, 16-year-old Reginald Dwayne Betts was sentenced to nine years in prison for a carjacking. He spent much of that time reading, and eventually writing. After prison, he went to Yale Law School and published a memoir and three books of poems. But he’s still wrestling with what “after prison” means. This is a … Continue reading “One of These Days We Might Find Us Some Free”: Reginald Dwayne Betts →

Jan 2020

42 min 59 sec

In Practice is a new podcast from the Center for Court Innovation focusing on practitioners—people working on the ground to make things better for those touched by the justice system. On the first episode, host Rob Wolf looks at the challenge domestic violence cases pose to probation departments. Subscribe today (Apple podcasts)!

Jan 2020

1 min 53 sec

At 24, Jarrell Daniels was released from prison after six years behind bars. It was a Thursday. The following Tuesday, he came back to the same facility in street clothes to attend the college class he’d started on the inside. He’s now a sophomore at Columbia University. The class that so inspired him was a … Continue reading College Incarcerated →

Dec 2019

30 min 45 sec

With Kim Foxx running for re-election as State’s Attorney in Cook County (Chicago), it’s an excellent moment to revisit one of the best conversations we’ve had on the podcast. Foxx, the first African-American woman to lead the office, has faced a campaign of sustained, often vicious, opposition from the moment she took the job and … Continue reading Kim Foxx: Rooted in Humanity →

Dec 2019

45 min 53 sec

Community service has long been a staple of sentencing in the U.S., and has long enjoyed a sunny, mostly uninterrogated, reputation as a more restorative and humane alternative to fines and fees or short-term jail. But two new reports—one from the Center for Court Innovation and one from the UCLA Labor Center—suggest many of the … Continue reading What Do We Know About Community Service? →

Nov 2019

31 min 28 sec

The movements to end cash bail and close jails are connected, and gabriel sayegh has been in the thick of organizing both fights. The co-executive director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice explains why he thinks New York’s impending reforms to bail are potentially the most sweeping in the country. And in … Continue reading Ending Bail, Closing Rikers: How Change Happens →

Oct 2019

36 min 33 sec

As chief medical officer for New York City jails, Homer Venters realized early in his tenure that for many people dying in jail, the primary cause of death was jail itself. To document these deaths, Venters and his team created a statistical category no one had dared to track before: “jail-attributable deaths.” His work led … Continue reading ‘Jail-Attributable Deaths’ →

Sep 2019

43 min 36 sec

Can art transform the criminal justice system? On this special edition of New Thinking, host Matt Watkins sits down with two New York City artists on the rise—Derek Fordjour and Shaun Leonardo—who both work with our Project Reset to provide an arts-based alternative to court and a criminal record for people arrested on a low-level … Continue reading Art vs. Mass Incarceration →

Sep 2019

41 min 3 sec

**episode originally aired in October 2018** About two out of three people in local jails are being held awaiting trial, often because they can’t afford bail. What if a mathematical formula could do a more objective job of identifying who could be safely released? That’s the promise of risk assessments. But critics call them “justice … Continue reading Beyond the Algorithm: Risk and Race →

Aug 2019

31 min 8 sec

In 2017, more than 17,000 people were murdered in the United States, most of them in cities. Thomas Abt, a long-time policy-maker and researcher, says that far from intractable, there are proven ways to reduce the violence, but he worries the urgency of acting now is being ignored. And when it comes to how we … Continue reading The Art and Science of Reducing Violence →

Jul 2019

30 min 9 sec

With so much of the focus now on keeping people out of jail and prison, it can feel like there is a reluctance among criminal justice reformers to work on improving life for the more than two million people already there. But one group beginning to mobilize on the issue is prosecutors—or at least “progressive” … Continue reading Marilyn Mosby, Karl Racine: “We’re Talking About Humans” →

Jun 2019

31 min 36 sec

If you’re not following Scott Hechinger on Twitter, you’re missing something important. A public defender and the director of policy at Brooklyn Defender Services, Hechinger is a fantastic explainer and participant-witness at the frontlines of the justice system. In May 2018, he joined our series on prosecutors, outlining how prosecutor power is exerted at key … Continue reading Prosecutor Power: Scott Hechinger on the Urgency of Reform →

Jun 2019

27 min 15 sec

Rachel Barkow contends criminal justice policy is a “prisoner of politics,” driven by appeals to voters’ worst instincts and an aversion to evidence of what actually works. Defined by its severity and unfairness, the criminal justice system, she says, is counterproductive to the goal of public safety it claims as its justification. In her new … Continue reading The Pathological Politics of Criminal Justice →

May 2019

35 min 32 sec

The well-known journalist and commentator Emily Bazelon talks about her new book, Charged, on the “movement to transform American prosecution,” and where she thinks power might be shifting in the criminal justice system. So-called progressive prosecutors are very much a minority among elected D.A.s, but what if they could be the model for dismantling what … Continue reading Emily Bazelon: When Power Shifts →

May 2019

37 min 33 sec

Rachael Rollins says she has seen the criminal justice system from “almost every angle.” Now, as Boston’s first female African-American district attorney, she’s setting the agenda. She explains her new approach of “services not sentences” as a response to low-level “crimes of poverty” and the urgency of changing the traditional role of the prosecutor. Full … Continue reading Misdemeanors Matter #3: Rachael Rollins Reboots Low-Level Justice →

Apr 2019

42 min 26 sec

Rikers Island was once the dream of progressive reformers for a more rehabilitative corrections system. Now New York City, taking advantage of its plunging jail population, has pledged to replace the scandal-plagued complex with four smaller redesigned facilities—located near courthouses, not on an isolated island. It’s a shift the mayor says will end the era … Continue reading New Jails to End All Jails? →

Mar 2019

31 min 37 sec

Almost any encounter with the criminal justice system comes with a price tag, and fines and fees are capturing millions of Americans in a cycle of poverty and justice-involvement. Various states across the country charge you for using a public defender, a DNA sample, your monthly parole meetings, even a jury trial. And that’s in … Continue reading The Cost of Being Poor? The Fight Against Fines and Fees →

Mar 2019

35 min 19 sec

How can the recent victories of the campaign to elect reform-minded district attorneys be wedded to larger systemic change to ensure the movement’s gains outlast the next election? On the final episode of our Prosecutor Power series, the ACLU’s Somil Trivedi says progressive D.A.s have to take the next step of campaigning to reduce their own … Continue reading Prosecutor Power #8: What’s Next for Progressive Prosecutors? →

Feb 2019

27 min 7 sec

Alexandra Natapoff calls the misdemeanor justice system a “quiet behemoth”: making up four of every five criminal cases in the U.S., neglected by scholars and reformers, and potentially harming those caught up in it for life. In Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal, she describes … Continue reading Misdemeanors Matter #2: Alexandra Natapoff on a Legacy of Injustice →

Feb 2019

37 min 48 sec

The movement to elect reform-minded prosecutors has been around long enough and scored enough victories that progressive D.A.s now have their own support network: Fair and Just Prosecution. Miriam Krinsky, its executive director, explains why she thinks “starry-eyed idealists” who want to transform the justice system need to get the message that “the biggest difference … Continue reading Prosecutor Power #7: Strength in Numbers →

Jan 2019

27 min 56 sec

How effective is therapy or treatment when it’s used instead of incarceration, and what are the challenges to conducting it inside the coercive context of the criminal justice system? New Thinking host Matt Watkins is joined by clinical psychologist Jacob Ham who works with justice-involved young people affected by trauma, and John Jay College’s Deborah … Continue reading Heal and Punish? When Therapy Is the Alternative to Incarceration →

Jan 2019

33 min 27 sec

Highlights from a public screening and panel discussion of Bill Moyers’s ‘Rikers: An American Jail,’ moderated by New Thinking host, Matt Watkins. Commenting on the film and the future of criminal justice reform are Tina Luongo of the Legal Aid Society, Jill Harris of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, and two of the people formerly … Continue reading Rikers: An American Jail (Best of 2018) →

Dec 2018

35 min 36 sec

As a defense attorney, Larry Krasner sued the Philadelphia police upwards of 75 times. In late 2017, he was elected D.A. in a landslide. As part of our series on the power of prosecutors, Krasner explains why he has little patience for compromise in a city whose justice system is “an outlier in a country … Continue reading Prosecutor Power #6: Larry Krasner, The Antagonist →

Dec 2018

38 min 1 sec

An audio portrait of Make It Happen, our program working with young men of color in Crown Heights, Brooklyn affected by violence. Through interviews with participants and practitioners, the episode explores the intersections of trauma, involvement with the justice system, and the lived experience of race. This episode was originally released in April 2018 and … Continue reading Race, Trauma, and Healing in Crown Heights, Brooklyn →

Nov 2018

22 min 16 sec

In Misdemeanorland, Issa Kohler-Hausmann argues the lower courts are no longer primarily concerned with whether people actually committed the offense they’ve been accused of. Instead, the focus is on future behavior: upholding social order through managing and assessing—often over long stretches—everyone with the misfortune of entering Misdemeanorland. It’s an argument that forces us to rethink … Continue reading Misdemeanors Matter #1: Social Control and the Lower Criminal Courts →

Oct 2018

29 min 25 sec

About two out of three people in local jails are being held awaiting trial, often because they can’t afford bail. What if a mathematical formula could do a more objective job of identifying who could be safely released? That’s the promise of risk assessments. But critics call them “justice by algorithm,” and contend they’re reproducing the … Continue reading The Most Hot-Button Issue in Criminal Justice Reform? →

Oct 2018

30 min 21 sec

Kim Foxx’s unexpected 2016 victory in the race for State’s Attorney for Cook County (Chicago) helped to ignite the movement to elect prosecutors promising something other than being “tough on crime.” As part of our series on prosecutor power, Foxx explains the reforms she’s put in place, her struggles with being the face of a … Continue reading Prosecutor Power #4: Kim Foxx, Rooted in Humanity →

Sep 2018

45 min 54 sec

Columbia University’s Bruce Western, a leading expert on the connection between mass incarceration and poverty, discusses his new book, Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison, and outlines his vision for a justice system rebuilt to respond to the deep deprivation and trauma fueling much of the behaviour that leads to imprisonment. Full show notes … Continue reading Criminal Justice as Social Justice: A Conversation With Bruce Western →

Sep 2018

34 min 31 sec