Criminal Justice & Public Safety

When Aaron Hinton walked through the housing project in Brownsville on a recent summer afternoon, he voiced love and pride for this tightknit, but troubled working-class neighborhood in New York City where he grew up.

He pointed to a community garden, the lush plots of vegetables and flowers tended by volunteers, and to the library where he has led after-school programs for kids.

But he also expressed deep rage and sorrow over the scars left by the nation's 50-year-long War on Drugs. "What good is it doing for us?" Hinton asked.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that some crack cocaine offenders sentenced to harsh prison terms more than a decade ago cannot get their sentences reduced under a federal law adopted with the purpose of doing just that.

A sign in the grass, near some trees.
Lydia Brown / VPR

None of the 1,200 or so people held by the Vermont Department of Corrections died from COVID-19, making it the only state in the country with no coronavirus fatalities among its incarcerated population. But while protocols like regular testing and lockdowns might have helped Vermont prisons avoid the worst of the pandemic, the strict lockdown measures took a toll.

The Department of Justice on Monday issued model legislation from which states can craft their own "extreme risk protection orders," commonly referred to as red flag laws, as part of the Biden administration's ongoing effort to curb U.S. gun violence.

"The Justice Department is determined to take concrete steps to reduce the tragic toll of gun violence in our communities," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

After more than a year of high-stakes negotiations with billions of dollars on the line, a bankruptcy plan for Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, cleared a major hurdle late Wednesday.

Federal Judge Robert Drain in White Plains, N.Y., moved the controversial deal forward despite objections from dozens of state attorneys general, setting the stage for a final vote by the company's creditors expected this summer.

The drugmaker filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2019 facing an avalanche of lawsuits tied to its aggressive opioid sales practices.

For three straight nights, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand took to the Senate floor to ask for quick approval of her bill to reform the military's criminal justice system.

After eight years of trying, the Democrat and longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee finally has the votes needed to approve the transformative legislation in the upper chamber. The bill has more than 60 cosponsors.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Members of George Floyd's family, and others who lost loved ones to police encounters, joined activists and citizens in Minneapolis on Sunday for a march that was one of several events planned nationwide to mark the first anniversary of Floyd's death.

On Aug. 26, Kevin Phomma was arrested during a racial justice demonstration outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Portland, Ore.

Prosecutors say Phomma sprayed police officers with bear repellant, so the U.S. Department of Justice charged him with civil disorder, a felony.

Fast forward to Jan. 6, where Reed Christensen, a Republican Party leader from Oregon's Washington County walked up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

White and Black Americans have very different views of race in America and have had very different experiences when it comes to dealing with discrimination and trusting police, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll details.

After the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin, Black police officers in America are considering what's changed and what hasn't in the year since George Floyd's death.

Updated May 13, 2021 at 3:23 PM ET

The trial on state charges facing Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao will be pushed back to March of 2022, a judge ruled Thursday. The former Minneapolis police officers are also facing federal charges over the killing of George Floyd that outweigh state charges of aiding and abetting.

A police department building
Peter Crabtree / VPR File

A nearly two-year investigation into the Bennington Police Department has found that officers failed to adequately investigate alleged threats against former state legislator Kiah Morris because of its racism and prejudice.

Massachusetts lawmakers passed one of the first state-wide restrictions of facial recognition as part of a sweeping police reform law.

The new law sets limits on how police use the technology in criminal investigations. It's one of the first attempts to find middle ground when regulating this technology, but not all privacy advocates agree that regulation is the right step.

Democratic state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz was one of the leaders behind this push for criminal justice reform.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case involving sentencing disparities between people found guilty of possessing crack cocaine and those possessing powdered forms, and whether recent changes in federal law should apply retroactively to those given long prison terms for small amounts of crack.

Updated May 4, 2021 at 10:01 PM ET

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin who was convicted last month of murdering George Floyd filed court documents for a new trial on Tuesday.

His attorney, Eric Nelson, petitioned the court, alleging that Chauvin's constitutional rights were violated when Judge Peter Cahill refused to change the venue of the trial, and that the pretrial publicity deprived the officer of a fair trial.

A memorial site with flowers, candles, a black lives matter image and a sign reading justice for george floyd.
Sarah Priestap / VPR File

As former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, Vermonters have been processing the emotions that come with such a conviction.

What actions have lawmakers taken to reform policing, and how are they being implemented? Plus, how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause is affecting Vermonters who are experiencing homelessness.

The murder conviction of Derek Chauvin could represent "a huge paradigm shift," if three other Minneapolis officers charged in George Floyd's death are also convicted, says Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and activist in Minneapolis.

A person smiling.
Nina Keck / VPR File

Former Rutland Area NAACP president Tabitha Moore has long spoken out against racial injustice. On Wednesday, Moore joined VPR’s community conversation about the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd.

A pair of hands holds up a painted sign that reads Justice, below a portrait of George Floyd. The sign sits above a crowd with other signs visible in the backdrop of a gray sky and trees.
Elodie Reed / VPR

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murdering George Floyd. Vermonters: How are you feeling about the verdict?

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