criminal justice reform | WAMC

criminal justice reform

Senator Edward Markey
Senator Edward Markey

Criminal justice reform is the subject of national debate this year.

In today’s Congressional Corner, WAMC’s Alan Chartock continues his conversation with Massachusetts U.S. Senator Ed Markey.

This interview was recorded on August 12.

Jail cell

VTDigger has begun a series of meetings over the next year to discuss significant issues affecting Vermont.  The first of the Fast Forward forums, held recently on the UVM campus, was motivated by the outlet’s investigations into corrections facilities and a Seven Days article that exposed allegations of staff misconduct at Vermont’s only women’s prison.

Courtesy of Pace University

Since changes to criminal justice laws took effect in New York January 1, there have been heated discussions, especially about the elimination of cash bail for most nonviolent offenses. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne spoke with Pace University Law School Professor David Dorfman, a criminal law expert.

HV Lawmakers Urge Changes To Bail Reform

Jan 8, 2020
Jail cell

Some New York state lawmakers in the Hudson Valley are calling for changes to criminal justice reforms that took effect January 1. There is bipartisan support to pass legislation that would allow judges to consider how dangerous a defendant is when determining pre-trial detention.

New York Ending Most Cash Bail In 2020

Dec 27, 2019
Thurgood Marshall Federal Court House in lower Manhattan
Karen DeWitt

Beginning January 1st, some criminal justice law changes take effect in New York. They have divided defendants’ rights advocates and law enforcement groups. 

A staff member digitizes documents at the Albany County District Attorney's office
Jim Levulis / WAMC

On January 1st, sweeping reforms to New York’s criminal justice system will go into effect. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard takes a look at how law enforcement agencies in Albany County are preparing for the changes…

From left to right: NYCLU's Nicole Triplett, New Yorkers United for Justice's Khalil Cumberbatch, Citizen Action of New York's Erin George, and Citizen Action of New York's Amy Jones
Lucas Willard / WAMC

Advocates for criminal justice reforms set to take effect on January 1st in New York are speaking out against the backlash from several upstate officials.

Roger Peet / justseeds

A citizen-driven data collection organization is attempting to track changes in the Berkshire County criminal justice system. Beginning this summer, Berkshire County CourtWatch sent volunteers to observe around 300 hearings held in the Southern Berkshires District Court in Great Barrington. This week, it released a preliminary analysis of the information it gathered from those appearances. Peggy Kern is the head of Berkshire County CourtWatch. She spoke with WAMC about that report on Wednesday, and how the group is trying to track the campaign promises of Berkshire DA Andrea Harrington.

New York State Capitol
Karen DeWitt

New York law enforcement groups have pushed back against criminal justice changes that take effect in January, including the end to most forms of cash bail. But the advocates who fought for the changes say they are long overdue and will restore fairness to the system. 

Documentary On Bard Prison Initiative To Air On PBS

Nov 25, 2019

A documentary about the Bard Prison Initiative airs Monday and Tuesday nights on PBS stations. “College Behind Bars” explores the lives of a dozen incarcerated men and women as they struggle to earn degrees in the Bard Prison Initiative, one of the most rigorous prison education programs in the country.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple surrounded by law enforcement officials from across New York
Lucas Willard / WAMC

Law enforcement officials across New York state today spoke out against criminal justice reforms set to take effect in January, as the call to bring lawmakers back to Albany for a special session grows louder.

Ulster County DA Candidates Lay Out Their Stances

Oct 25, 2019
The Statue Of Justice
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

Among the issues they disagree about, the candidates for Ulster County district attorney have different visions for carrying out criminal justice reform.

Van Jones
Jesse King / WAMC

Activist and CNN commentator Van Jones met with New York state lawmakers in Albany Tuesday to push for changes to state criminal law.


A compromise bill that calls for sweeping changes in the state's criminal justice system could be on Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's desk before the end of the week.

       Massachusetts state senators are holding a private retreat in Boston today to discuss what to include in a criminal justice reform bill.  Legislative leaders say they hope to pass sweeping crime legislation before the end of the year.

City of Springfield, Office of the Mayor

        Massachusetts casino regulators are being urged to relax restrictions on people with criminal records getting jobs in the state’s casinos.

Vermont has been tapped to join a national criminal justice reform effort.

         Criminal justice reforms are expected to be debated in the Massachusetts legislature during the two-year session that began this month.  Already, one bill has been filed at the request of a mayor who says rules about bail need to change to keep violent criminals off the streets.


Rallies, marches, and vigils continue in the region following the deaths last week of two black men at the hands of police officers and the lone gunman attack that killed five police officers in Dallas. A Black Lives Matter rally in Springfield, Massachusetts Monday included a U.S. presidential candidate.

A bill that bars employers from asking about a person’s criminal history on a job application form has become law in Vermont.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
Pat Bradley/WAMC

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy hosted a forum on criminal justice reform in Burlington on Monday with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.  The former mayor of Newark is a long-time advocate of reform and is co-sponsoring federal bills to modernize the criminal justice system.

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo previewed his seven-point plan at Mount Neboh Bapitst Church in Harlem on Sunday morning.

WikiMedia Commons

Massachusetts is joining a national movement to reexamine get-tough-on-crime policies.

Massachusetts state leaders earlier this month committed to a comprehensive review of the state’s criminal justice policies with a goal to reduce the cost of incarceration and improve public safety by reducing recidivism. 

The suicide of 22-year-old Kalief Browder earlier this month has heightened the debate in the United States over the use of solitary confinement in prisons as well as the frequency of forced confessions and guilty pleas. Guilty pleas account for 97 percent of all convictions in the United States. We’re talking today to University at Albany’s Professor Allison Redlich, who studies these topics extensively and who can offer a very educated perspective. 

An exterior view of the Massachusetts State House in Boston

A debate over making substantial changes to the criminal justice system in Massachusetts began in earnest today as advocates for reform traveled to the statehouse to lobby legislators.

Busloads of activists from Springfield, Holyoke, Worcester and elsewhere traveled to the Statehouse in Boston Tuesday to rally and attend a legislative hearing in support of a bill to overhaul aspects of the state’s approach to crime.