The Appeal

The Appeal

theappeal.org
Criminal justice reform, abolition, and everything in between.


52: The Problem With Jailhouse Informants
Oct 10 • 22 min
Jailhouse informants are a fixture of pop culture, helping TV prosecutors secure convictions in exchange for leniency or other favors. But the public—and by extension, juries—are largely ignorant of just how common, and how damaging,…
51: U.S. Prisoners on Death Row Endure Permanent Solitary Before Execution
Oct 3 • 14 min
In addition to being unique among Western nations in executing people, the U.S. keeps many of its death row prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement, which is known to inflict physical and psychological harm. Today’s guest, Appeal staff reporter…
50: The War on Drugs Continues In Family Court
Sep 26 • 26 min
As cannabis use is legalized in more and more jurisdictions across the country, child protective systems aren’t always keeping pace. Allegations of drug use are still raised in family court, particularly against parents of color, and those who admit…
49: Chesa Boudin and the Meaning of ‘Reform’
Sep 19 • 21 min
Progressive prosecutors have swept into office across the country, winning district attorney seats in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, and beyond. But what does it mean to be a “reform prosecutor”? What is the ideology of the movement and…
48: The Rise of Registries
Sep 12 • 32 min
Earlier this year, lawmakers in New York proposed a bill that would bar people convicted of multiple sex offenses from ever using New York City’s subway system again. The plan, which would inflict a form of banishment in the name of public safety,…
End of Season Note to Listeners
Jul 25 • 0 min
Thanks for all your support! We’ll be back in September.
47: The Media’s Misguided Fentanyl Hype
Jul 18 • 22 min
In recent years, lawmakers and the media have dusted off the 1980’s War on Drugs script to respond to an uptick in overdoses caused by a new, potent, heroin-like substance called fentanyl. Military officials are considering classifying it as a…
46: Pleading Guilty Just to Go Home
Jul 11 • 17 min
Approximately half a million people are currently in jail awaiting trial across the United States, the vast majority because they are unable to pay bail. A 2018 study of Philadelphia and Miami-Dade found that people being held on bail earned roughly…
45: Qualified Immunity, A Roadblock to Reform
Jun 20 • 18 min
Efforts to hold police accountable for violating civil rights frequently come up against a legal roadblock known as “qualified immunity.” Invented by the Supreme Court in 1967 and widely expanded in 1982, qualified immunity helps public officials…
44: What’s Changed Since The 2018 Prison Strike?
Jun 13 • 21 min
In August and September of last year, there were prison strikes in at least 17 states marked by work stoppages and hunger strikes. But what’s happened since? How have things improved or, in some cases, been made worse by the forces of reaction? As…
43: American Cities’ Growing Reliance on Surveillance
Jun 6 • 23 min
In an effort to meet public demand to reduce the size of the brick and mortar prison population, some jurisdictions are doing so but reinvesting manpower and money into what activists call “digital prisons.” In addition to electronic monitoring,…
42: Criminal Justice Reform Hits Roadblock in Arizona
May 30 • 18 min
Dozens of states have reformed their drug laws in recent years, but Arizona remains a stubborn outlier. In Maricopa County, for example, a recent report found that drug cases represent the “overwhelming majority” of charges filed. Up…
41: Reframing The Bronx 120 Raid
May 23 • 23 min
In April 2016, the NYPD, in concert with the FBI, ATF, DEA, and Homeland Security, descended onto the South Bronx, arresting scores of people in what was described as the largest “gang takedown” in city history. Preet Bharara, then U.S. attorney for…
40: Generational Harm, A Hidden Cost of Mass Incarceration
May 16 • 23 min
On this podcast––and in other coverage of the criminal legal system––we tend to focus, understandably, on the people behind bars and on parole. But in reality, this only shows part of the damage inflicted by mass incarceration. Generational…
39: NYPD-SVU’s Low Clearance Rate for Sexual Assault
May 2 • 18 min
Despite having ‎more than 35,000 officers and a massive budget of over $5 billion a year, the NYPD––and its Special Victims Unit––have a high rate of prematurely closed rape cases compared to other police departments, leading critics to…
38: Privacy and Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
Apr 25 • 34 min
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) have exploded in popularity. In 2000, thirteen states used PDMPs; today, they exist in every state and Washington, D.C. These programs are ostensibly designed to respond to the opioid crisis by monitoring…
37: The Baltimore Police Department’s Troubled Homicide Unit
Apr 18 • 20 min
A recent lawsuit accused the Baltimore Police Department’s homicide unit of a long pattern of questionable police work. Our guest, Appeal contributor Amelia McDonell-Parry, joins us today to discuss the case of Jerome L. Johnson, a man just released…
36: The Long, Troubled History of Gravity Knife Prosecution
Apr 11 • 16 min
For decades, the New York Police Department has arrested people, the vast majority people of color, for carrying so-called gravity knives, meant to open with a flick of the wrist. The problem is, it’s not always clear what is and isn’t a gravity…
35: The Risks of Risk Assessment
Apr 4 • 45 min
As more and more states seek to abandon cash bail, a system widely seen as unjust and discriminatory, a question has emerged: What should replace it? Increasingly, the answer involves some sort of “risk assessment”––tools designed to predict…
34: Pushing for Police Accountability in Sacramento
Mar 14 • 20 min
In March 2018, police in Sacramento, California killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old, in his grandparents’ backyard. A year later, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s announcement that charges would not be filed against the two officers…
33: The Backlash Against Expanding Voting Rights
Mar 7 • 18 min
States throughout the U.S. have recently expanded voting rights to millions of people with felony records previously barred from participating in elections. After a brief moment of celebration, two of them, Iowa and Florida, are now experiencing…
32: Mayor of Jackson Faces Uphill Battle for Police Accountability
Feb 28 • 19 min
Elected in 2017 to much fanfare from progressives, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba promised to transform Jackson, Mississippi, into the “most radical city on the planet.” But almost immediately, one of Lumumba’s signature reforms—an effort to…
31: Prisoners With Disabilities Fight for Equal Rights
Feb 21 • 14 min
In the public mind, incarcerated people are often better left in the dark––unseen and unconsidered. That’s especially true when it comes to prisoners with disabilities, who suffer from both the routine cruel conditions of America’s prisons and a…
30: How Police Unions Are Fighting California’s New Transparency Law
Feb 14 • 20 min
A primary demand of the Black Lives Matter movement is more transparency into police misconduct. When an officer improperly arrests, unduly harms, sexually assaults, or kills someone, any previous record of misconduct ought to be a matter of public…
29: A Pattern of Jail Deaths in Upstate New York—and Across the Country
Feb 7 • 22 min
About 1,000 people die in U.S. jails every year. But Erie County, New York, is an outlier, with 24 such deaths since Timothy Howard took over as sheriff in 2005. This week, we’re going to talk with Appeal contributor Raina Lipsitz about what’s…
28: Debunking the ‘Fake News’ About Federal Prisoners’ Steak Dinners
Jan 24 • 26 min
As the government shutdown drags on, a number of media outlets––from NBC News to USA Today to the Washington Post––have run stories claiming that federal prisoners are eating elaborate steak dinners while prison guards go unpaid. This…
27: Promise and Letdown in Post-Alton Sterling Baton Rouge
Jan 17 • 25 min
Following the Alton Sterling shooting in the summer of 2016, the national media briefly turned its attention to Baton Rouge—a city marked by a long history of segregation and racist policing. After the killing, local politicians promised reform but…
26: The Power of Sheriffs
Jan 10 • 27 min
In the past few years, criminal justice reformers have focused on city police departments and prosecutors. What might be gained from focusing on sheriffs’ departments? Sheriffs wield a tremendous amount of power in our criminal justice system but…
25: How Some Cities Are Fighting Back Against ICE
Dec 12, 2018 • 22 min
With the swearing in of President Trump in January 2017 came an aggressive rightward shift in America’s immigration policy, specifically with regard to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Our guest, Appeal senior reporter Debbie Nathan, has been…
24: BLM Four Years On - Racism in the Criminal Justice System
Dec 6, 2018 • 22 min
It’s been over four years since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and the issue of racism in the criminal legal system remains as stark and urgent as ever. Our guest, professor at American University College of Law, Appeal contributor and…
23: The Pseudoscience behind Forensic Science
Nov 29, 2018 • 19 min
We’ve watched the scene play out in countless police dramas: slick scientific experts with the latest gadgets and technology finding the Bad Guys with forensic pattern matching: Bite marks, fingerprints, a marking on a fired bullet or handwriting on…
22: The Dangers of Faux-Reform
Nov 15, 2018 • 33 min
“Criminal justice reform” as a general label has become trendy in recent years and, for many prospective Presidential candidates it will be a major 2020 litmus test. But what do people mean when they use the term? What are the policies being…
20: Neglect and Abuse in Our Prison Healthcare System
Nov 1, 2018 • 19 min
Most people know that the healthcare situation in the United States is one of most precarious in the world, but what’s never talked about is the status of healthcare for America’s 2.2 million incarcerated persons––which is lightyears worse….
19: Prison Strikes and the Frontlines of Resistance Against Mass Incarceration
Oct 25, 2018 • 21 min
This fall, thousands of incarcerated people in dozens of states went on strike to protest harsh and exploitative conditions in America’s prisons. Prisons, and the cruel conditions they foster, are often the last thing with which the public wants to be…
18: How Activists Brought Down the Most Powerful Man in Chicago
Oct 11, 2018 • 27 min
Two pieces of news have rocked Chicago: the announcement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that he will not seek a third term and the conviction of a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, of the killing of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald. Both events were…
17: The Cruelty of Life Sentences For Proxy Crime
Oct 4, 2018 • 16 min
The United States is alone in the world in pursuing two modes of prosecution: giving life sentences to children under 18, and giving life sentences for murder to people who never murdered anyone. Even if one doesn’t pull any trigger, or even have…
16 - Police Accountability: As Elusive as Ever
Sep 27, 2018 • 25 min
“Police accountability” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in conversations about criminal justice reform. But how do we make sure police officers who break laws or department rules are held to account? The reality––even four years after…
15: On the Ground in Dallas’ High Stakes DA Race
Sep 20, 2018 • 32 min
This week we’re doing the first of a recurring series on how activists and organizers on the ground are trying to move the needle with regard to District Attorney races. Our first installment: Dallas County. An appointed conservative DA, Faith…
14: The Prison-to-School Pipeline
Sep 13, 2018 • 34 min
You’ve likely heard of the school-to-prison pipeline, but what you likely haven’t heard is the prison-to-school pipeline––efforts in recent years to help the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated receive a quality education. Our guest,…
13: The Problem of ‘Innocence’
Sep 6, 2018 • 33 min
‘He was a straight-A student’, ‘a loving husband’, ‘she worked 60 hours a week’––we often hear how victims of police and white supremacist violence didn’t deserve to be killed due to their shiny records. But what if this is the totally wrong…
12: Why Electronic Monitoring Is Not Prison Reform
Aug 16, 2018 • 21 min
As prison reform efforts begin to have an effect on how many people end up behind bars, a reliance on electronic monitoring increasingly serves as a pseudo-solution to keep people out of cement and steel cages––by putting them into electronic…
11: Big Box Retailers and Prosecutors Team Up to Crackdown on Petty Crime
Aug 9, 2018 • 29 min
Shoplifting is traditionally seen as a petty crime unworthy of serious punishment, much less prison time. But under an increasingly popular theory of crime, DA’s––with the help of retail lobbyists––are throwing the book at people for stealing…
10: Race and Corruption in Child Protection Courts
Aug 2, 2018 • 28 min
State child protective courts are an under-reported element of our criminal legal system, but their impact on communities of color and the poor is felt as much, if not more, than other aspects of it. One case, that of the Hart family, caught national…
9: The History––and Promise––of the Bail Abolition Movement
Jul 26, 2018 • 26 min
1 in 5 people incarcerated in this country have not been convicted of any wrongdoing. Their crime? Being poor in a country that tethers pre-trial freedom to one’s wealth. In this episode we discuss with journalist Bryce…
8: The Racist Zeal of ‘Zero Tolerance’ and Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Escalation
Jul 19, 2018 • 47 min
By now you’ve probably heard of the family separation crisis at the US-Mexico border. What you may not know is how exactly we got to this tipping point. On today’s show we talk with Appeal writer Max Rivlin-Nadler, who’s been following President Trump…
7: What Abolitionists Mean When They Talk About Abolition
Jul 12, 2018 • 31 min
We didn’t always have police and prisons as we know them today—in fact, they’re fairly recent inventions. Abolitionists like William C. Anderson ask us to radically rethink the necessity of police, and our practice of throwing people in cages….
6: The Unique Cruelty of Sentencing Children to Life Without Parole
Jun 28, 2018 • 23 min
Despite recent Supreme Court rulings curtailing the practice, the United States remains the only country on earth that enforces life without parole sentences for crimes committed when they were minors. Our guest, Victoria Law, explains efforts by…
5: Rise of Silicon Valley-Assisted Pre-Crime
Jun 20, 2018 • 31 min
Data corporations like Palantir are teaming up with police departments to create real time “probable offender” lists of thousands of mostly African American and Latino people. These lists, and other “predictive policing” tools, create a…
4: Rikers and the Co-opting of Prison Reform to Sell More Prisons
Jun 14, 2018 • 26 min
It’s a tension that has existed in activists and political circles since there’s been activism and politics: how to know the difference between healthy reform and cynical, watered-down reform. Or worse: so-called “reform” that is actually a…
3: Turning Users Into Dealers and Accidental Overdoses into Murder
Jun 6, 2018 • 44 min
Prosectors and law enforcement agencies have been bringing murder charges against people who supply friends and family with drugs. As the opioid epidemic marches on, efforts to curb heroin and prescription drug abuse through increased arrests and…
2: The Misplaced Sanctimony of Criminalizing Sex Work
May 30, 2018 • 41 min
Stopping the trafficking of exploited persons is something everyone agrees is important. But recent efforts by the federal government to exploit this good faith desire to protect the vulnerable by criminalizing consensual sex work––namely by…
1: District Attorneys: The Most Powerful People You’ve Never Heard Of
May 29, 2018 • 35 min
District Attorneys wield the power of entire police departments but have been historically overlooked in efforts to reform the legal system. Recently that’s changed, with bond reform and primary challenges upending the “tough on crime” status…