long conversations
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The Case for Abolishing Juvenile Prisons

Last month, archaeologists identified the first of the fifty-five human bodies recently exhumed at Florida’s Dozier School for Boys—a now-shuttered juvenile prison where, for decades, guards abused children, sometimes to death, despite cyclical scandals and calls for reform spanning almost a hundred years. Dozier represents an atrocious extreme, but the failures of America’s juvenile justice system are widespread. Whether labeled “boot camps,” “training schools,” “reformatories,” or other euphemisms, juvenile prisons have long harbored pervasive physical and sexual abuse. In one survey, twelve percent of incarcerated youth reported being sexually abused in the previous year—a figure that likely understates the problem.

During the “tough-on-crime” [...]

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'The Wire' and the Realism Canard

David Simon's The Wire, which is set to soon be re-broadcast in high definition, continues to be hailed, in some corners, as the greatest television show of all time. In an effort to elevate it to the level of high art, many critics (including Simon himself) have reached for comparisons with other, less lumpen forms, from Greek tragedy to Dickens—anything, in short, that isn't a television show. But Linda Williams, a professor of film studies and rhetoric at Berkeley, in her new book, On The Wire, thinks that the show's greatest accomplishment is its use of melodrama. I talked to Williams last month about melodrama and [...]

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The Body Counter

Michael Lansu has been a crime reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times for the past decade. Since October 2013 his role has been more specific: editor of the Sun-Times’ Homicide Watch blog, where he reports on every homicide in a city which had five hundred murders in 2012.

Each victim receives a landing page on Michael’s blog. Some are bare-bones, just a news brief on their death. Others—where the victim’s family was more talkative, or the prosecution more successful—are elaborate, Facebook-like pages, with in memoriam posts and updates on suspects’ court dates. The overall effect is strangely human: part crime reporting, part obituary.

Summer is [...]