Can Some Solutions Hurt Us? Reporting on Violence

Mired in our struggle with violence, we need to figure out whether the solutions offered by public officials really work.

This is something we – the news media- can do  and lately WBEZ has been doing an incredibly good job.

Here, for example, is one program that raises questions about mandatory minimum sentences.

Are they a salvation?

Maybe not. Maybe they are a quick answer that will bedevil us with more prison costs and no difference in crime.

http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-mandatory-minimums-gun-crimes-research-shows-they-are-ineffective-106621

What’s so good about this reporting is that it takes us beyond what public officials say to challenge their assumptions.

Clearly WBEZ has shown a commitment to this reporting, but armed with some imagination and ambition and help, this is the kind of reporting that anyone – from blogsters to local media to ethnic media to big-time news media – can do.

How?

You look for sources, for community voices, for data and you quickly realize that there’s plenty to help us tell this story.

Consider, for example, these news articles and research from various news sources and a think tank on the impact on mandatory minimums. The New York Times has begun a series, which like the WBEZ reporting, raises questions about whether this is the road we need to follow.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/opinion/unjust-mandatory-minimum-prison-sentences.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/science/mandatory-prison-sentences-face-growing-skepticism.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/03/massinc_review_of_massachusett.html

http://www.indystar.com/article/20130413/NEWS02/304130065/More-women-behind-bars-drug-use-mandatory-sentencing-blamed-increase

http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR827.html

This articles raises another point worth considering. When we send away so many to prison, what happens when they return. There’s a heap of related research that shows the greater poverty among black men is highly related to incarceration rates. If you want to know more about this research, let me know.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/science/long-prison-terms-eyed-as-contributing-to-poverty.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Okay, let’s step back and take a bigger look at things and that is what this WBEZ effort with WNYC does. To begin, it looks at why the murder rate lately in Chicago is dramatically higher than New York’s, why the gang situation is different and what impact racial segregation has on crime and violence.

http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-04-11/flashpoint-tale-two-police-forces-106601

And while you are looking for sources, here are two doorways. One is a link to a law professor’s blog which links to heaps of other legal sources. The second is Crimereport, an essential source for reporters covering crime and justice.

http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2012/05/another-obvious-mandatory-sentencing-injustice-in-florida-warning-shot-case-.html

But what are doing? What are you doing?

If I can help, let me know.

Talk to me. Talk to us.

Steve@chicagoistheworld. Office 312 369 6400,

Steve franklin


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