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The Mercy Project

Life is fragile. We sometimes forget that, but we remember quickly when we lose something or someone important to us. We often forget it because, in the developed world, we tend to live longer and better than people ever have. We forget that, even in our own country, not everyone lives (and has lived) as we do. Last Friday, President Obama granted Read More

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Why Soak the Rich When We Can Punk the Poor?

Speaking of probation, it’s supposed to be that you don’t go to jail for being poor. Thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a court couldn’t revoke your probation and imprison you for not paying a fine or restitution unless the court found, after inquiry, that you somehow could pay the fine or restitution, or even Read More

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More Than A Rogue

Last month, the California Court of Appeal published a decision about a 2013 case in which the prosecutor fabricated evidence in order to force the defendant to plead guilty. The defendant had been charged with lewd conduct with a child under the age of 14 after his girlfriend’s daughter alleged several instances of molestation. The defendant pleaded not guilty and was appointed a lawyer to Read More

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One Parole Officer Answers Fifteen Questions Directly

That’s what you get in this feature from the Marshall Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization covering our criminal justice system. Some of the answers may surprise you, and to think, all they had to do was ask. Which questions would you ask? What is your average daily caseload? What is the hardest thing a parolee faces Read More

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The Plight of the Public Defender

What if your freedom were in the hands of the public defender? That’s the title of this recent blog post by a former public defender who writes eloquently about the plight of our country’s public-defense system. He’s not alone. In 2014, many others spoke, wrote, and campaigned to urge us to understand that, in the 21st century, the price of freedom and Read More

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Why Innocent People Plead Guilty

Every now and then, people come along who not only say something meaningful about our world but propose something specific to improve it, and who possess the pedigree and gravitas to actually move the needle. We do well to listen to them. So registers this essay by Jed Rakoff, a federal judge from the Southern District of New Read More

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Starving the Defense

You may not know it, but inmates in the federal system can email. The government has an email system that it’s rolled out across federal prisons for the past decade. The Bureau of Prisons contracts for the system with a private company called CorrLinks, and the BOP’s overall program is called TRULINCS, or the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System. As the name Read More

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The Problem of Overcriminalization

Overcriminalization is a dangerous trend that one expert defines in a nutshell as “an overreliance on the criminal laws to affect the way people behave.” What if I told you that our federal codes define approximately 4,500 federal crimes—so many, in fact, that no one, including the government, actually knows how many—but that we still feel the need to enact over 50 new crimes per year? What Read More

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Taxing the Poor: Private Probation and the Modern Debtors’ Prison

I remember reading about this a couple of years ago and shaking my head, but apparently, the problem hasn’t improved. In some of our more cash-strapped states and counties, courts are privatizing their probation departments, placing this core public function in the hands of private businesses. Consider the example of Thomas Barrett. The Georgia resident was put on probation for stealing a can Read More

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How Important are Practices and Procedures in an Imperfect World? This Much.

Stuff happens, right? You can say that again. Last week, two women in New York were released from prison more than eight years after being wrongly convicted of a home-invasion robbery. For an object lesson on all that can go wrong in a criminal case, consider their story. It begins in 2005, when a guy gets shot in a robbery at his home, and Read More

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