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Criminal Justice

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Twenty-six years ago, Derrick Hamilton was convicted for a murder he didn’t commit. The conviction was, in part, a result of the 1994 crime bill. Hamilton argues the bill gave more power to police and the prison system, including the officer who framed him. He’s not off base. Experts say the legislation helped disproportionately target Black and Brown men and accelerate mass incarceration. In 2015, Hamilton was exonerated, but the 21 years he spent in prison cemented his belief that it’s time to abolish the carceral system.

“If we are to make a fairer society, where all people are treated fairly and with dignity,” Hamilton writes, “we must start with eradicating any laws and institutions that discriminate against individuals.”


Electronic monitoring incarcerates people who might otherwise be on probation — and makes them pay for it themselves

Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images

“If I had just done time, I would’ve been done by now.”— Patricia, under house arrest in Indiana

The “crime” Patricia, mother of five, committed was an odd one: She climbed through her best friend’s window to retrieve a bottle of her own medication. She and her friend had “open-door policies” and visited each other’s Indiana homes daily, including when the other wasn’t present — but her friend’s husband was not on friendly terms with Patricia, and one day he called the cops on her. Though all theft and drug charges were dropped (since the medication she took was her…


Patricia Cummings, head of Philadelphia’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), and Chester Hollman III. Photos: Hannah Yoon

Larry Krasner’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which acts as the city’s in-house Innocence Project, is trying to fix sentencing errors past

By the time Chester Hollman III met with Patricia Cummings, in the spring of 2019, he’d lost all hope of ever getting out of prison. Even when Cummings assured him that he had a strong case, he was reluctant to believe her. And why should he? For nearly 15 years, a string of top-notch lawyers had been fighting, pro bono, to overturn his his 1991 murder conviction. Hollman, short and stocky with gleaming eyes, was 23 years old when he was sentenced; by 2019 he was 49 years old. …


The nearly identical cases of Brittany Smith and Rose Parker show how the justice system penalizes abuse victims for surviving

Brittany Smith. Photo: Facebook

In 1986, Rose Parker shot her abuser to save her brother’s life. The man she shot, Art Bago, had been horrifically abusive during their relationship, making Parker fear for her life and, at one point, raping her in front of her 19-month-old son. She became pregnant after the rape and hid in her brother’s house. Bago came to the house with two guns and an Uzi and held both the pregnant Parker and her son captive for days, beating her throughout. When Parker’s brother stormed the house, hoping to rescue Rose, Bago picked up the Uzi and headed out to…


Anthony Blas Yepez killed a man. Is his DNA to blame?

Credit: grandeduc/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In 2015, Anthony Blas Yepez was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison after killing George Ortiz, his girlfriend’s step-grandfather.

Three years prior, Yepez and his girlfriend were living with Ortiz when, according to testimony, Ortiz hit Yepez’s girlfriend in the face. Yepez says he isn’t sure what happened next but that he “must have blacked out.” When he came to, he was on top of Ortiz, who was bleeding and appeared to be dead. Yepez and his girlfriend then poured cooking oil on the victim, lit him on fire, and fled the scene in Ortiz’s car.

Now, Yepez’s…

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