Innocent citizens who have experienced the violent impact of systemic failures in criminal justice deserve better than analyses that focus “blame” on individual players. As the medical and aviation fields have long known, “who” failed is less important than “why” things failed.
Saying “I’m sorry” is a useful start. But justice authorities could take a lesson from medicine by combining a genuine apology with a full disclosure of what went wrong. In today’s 24/7 media landscape that’s an essential step to rebuilding trust and confidence.
Clint Eastwood’s new movie offers an object lesson in why the conventional Hollywood approach to mistakes or near-disasters is wrongheaded. In criminal justice, focusing on heroes (or villains) can’t help us learn why things went wrong—and how to change them.
Criminal justice reform is having its moment in the public square. The gatekeepers—editors, publishers, producers, bloggers, and the “most-followed” social media posters—have decided to grant criminal justice issues some attention. These media moments always fade. How can reformers exploit the opportunity this one presents? Can something useful be left behind?
Next year's presidential contest is now well underway. With Hillary Clinton, the acknowledged frontrunner for the Democrats, officially in the race, and a slew of contenders vying (or likely to vie) for the Republican nomination, across a spectrum ranging from Jeb Bush to Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, it's a good time to begin asking where each of them stand on the criminal justice challenges facing the country. In our system, most of the gritty justice issues, from overcrowding in jails and prisons to police use of force and errant prosecutors, are dealt with on a state and local level—not by the feds. Nevertheless, leadership in the White House matters: it establishes priorities, frames the national agenda and sets a tone. And we clearly need leadership today.
“Sentinel event analysis,” a process traditionally not used in criminal justice but entrenched in the health-care and transportation industries, now is being tested to help prevent major justice errors,
Too often, quality and safety are sacrificed to generate “production.” The justice system drifts inexorably up to, and then past, its safety margins— until its safety devices lose all meaning, and the system breaks down completely.
When criminal justice fails in a spectacular way—for example, in a wrongful conviction discovered after an innocent man has served 20 years—people find it easy to see the point of using the model employed by the National Transportation Safety Board: investigate the event and see if we can learn some lessons.