13th Annual John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Symposium

Justice in the Heartland


Illustration by Bob Jones

As the Trump Administration began its second year in office in February 2018, two very different conceptions of criminal justice priorities took shape.

At the federal level, a revival of “tough-on-crime” approaches to sentencing, incarceration and policing received new impetus from a Justice Department determined to combat what it perceived as the threat of rising crime and violence.  But at state and local levels, leaders on all sides of the political spectrum remained committed to continuing the reforms begun during the previous Obama administration.

The conflicts, played out across the policymaking and practitioner community, from state legislatures to prosecutors’ offices and courtrooms, prisons, and jails, formed the backdrop to the 13th annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America, held Feb 15-16th, 2018, at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Thirty-three journalists from across the U.S. were selected as Justice Reporting Fellows to participate in the conference with leading researchers, policymakers, advocates and practitioners. They explored themes particularly relevant to the American heartland, which provided bulk of support for Donald Trump’s candidacy during the 2016 presidential election.

The topics included: the spreading opium epidemic, corrections and sentencing reform, the spike in homicides and the underground gun market. Journalists also participated in two special “story labs” on covering sexual assaults and privacy and criminal justice.

The symposium was organized by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice, and supported with a grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. Additional support came from the Pew Public Safety Performance Project and the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice.

A complete agenda of the symposium, including biographies of speakers and fellows, can be downloaded here. A short list of the 2018 Fellows is available here.

On this page you will find articles and projects of our 2018 Fellows (updated regularly); links to resources, Powerpoints and other handouts presented during the symposium; and video reportage of the panels.


Kia Gregory

Feb 13, 2019/The Atlantic

‘Devaluing Black Bodies’: How Police-Shooting Videos Can Thwart the Search for Justice

Ashley Kang

Nov 1, 2018/The Stand

A Prisoners’ Pen Pal Finds Making Connections is a ‘Beautiful Thing’

Oct 5, 2018/The Stand

‘Never Give Up:’ A Returning Citizen Finds Hope After Prison

Aug 29 2018/The Stand

Seizing a Second Chance: An Ex-Inmate Brings Hope Back to Her Community

NOV 28, 2018

An Ex-Incarceree’s Story:  ‘I Was Runnin’ From Myself’

Craig McCarthy and Sean  Sullivan/ NJ Advance Media

Nov. 29, 2018

Long-Buried NJ Police Reports Reveal Racial Bias in Use of Force

Thomasi McDonald

Raleigh News & Observer/March 19, 2019

America’s Drug Problem Hits Home for North Carolina’s Cherokee Tribe

Grace Toohey

July 21, 2018/The Advocate

Questions Surround Louisiana’s $8.5M Criminal Justice ‘Reinvestment’

Conrad Wilson

Nov 1, 2018/Oregon Public Radio

How the Law Complicates Tracking Hate in Oregon



PANEL 1: Opiates–An American Tragedy (PART 1)

Speakers: Jose Diaz-Briseno, Washington correspondent, La Reforma, Mexico; Paul Cell, first Vice President International Association of Chiefs of Police; Rita Noonan, Chief, Health Systems and Trauma Systems Branch, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; Cheri Walter, Chief Executive Officer, The Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities.

Moderator: Kevin Johnson, USA Today 

PANEL 2:  Opiates: The Battle So Far (PART 2)

Speakers: The Hon. Judith Claire (ret), Chatauqua County (NY) Family Treatment Court; The Hon. Craig Hannah, Presiding Judge, Opiate Treatment Court, Buffalo, N.Y.; Scott Higham, Washington Post; Brandon del Pozo, Chief of Police, Burlington, Vt.; Joseph Rannazzisi, former Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Diversion Control, DEA; John Chapman Young, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Cherokee Nation.

Moderator: Stephen Handelman, Director, CMCJ

PANEL 3: Crime Trends 2017-2018–Is the Homicide “Spike” Real?

Speakers: Thomas Abt, Senior Fellow, Harvard Law School; Alfred Blumstein, J. Erik Jonsson University Professor of Urban Systems and Operations Research, Carnegie Mellon University; Shytierra Gaston, Asst Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Indiana University-Bloomington; Richard Rosenfeld, Founders Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Moderator: Robert Jordan Jr., former anchor, Chicago WGN-TV

PANEL 4: Corrections/Sentencing Reform Update

Speakers: Leann Bertsch, President, Association of State Correctional Administrators, Director, North Dakota Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation; Adam Gelb, Director, Public Safety Performance Project, Pew Charitable Trusts; Kathleen F. Maurer, director, Health and Addiction Services and Medical Director, Connecticut Department of Correction; Vikrant Reddy, Senior Research Fellow, Charles Koch Institute; David Singleton, Director, Ohio justice & Policy Center.

Moderator: Martin Horn, Distinguished Lecturer, Department of Law & Political Science, John Jay College.

PANEL 5: Correcting Error–Can the Justice System Fix its Mistakes?

Speakers:  Eric Gonzalez, District Attorney, Kings County (Brooklyn), N.Y.; Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney, Baltimore; Kim Ogg; District Attorney, Harris County, Texas.

Moderator: Paul Heaton, Research Director, Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice.

PANEL 6: Understanding the Underground Gun Market

Speakers:  Philip Cook, Professor Emeritus, Duke University; David Hureau, Assistant Professor, State University of New York, Albany; Andrew Papachristos, Professor of Sociology and Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University; Kimberley Smith, Research Manager, The Crime Lab, University of Chicago.

Moderator: Mark Obbie, journalist