This page contains links to all my recent work, organized by category:
This series, supported by a yearlong Soros Justice Media Fellowship starting in mid-2014, was published by Slate magazine in 2015.
“He Killed Her Daughter. She Forgave Him.: Linda White believes in a form of justice that privileges atonement over punishment. She practices what she preaches.”
June 30, 2015
In writing an update on one of the best known cases of victim-offender dialog, I arranged and witnessed a reunion between the mother of a murder victim and the man who killed her.
“'These People Need to Know What We Have Gone Through’: The victims of crime who go to prisons to confront criminals, and why they do it.”
July 19, 2015
I visited Texas prisons to see the work of Bridges to Life, a faith-based program in which crime victims counsel prisoners. What, I wondered, do the victims get out of it?
“Last Man Standing: Nothing can stop the bipartisan coalition pressing for criminal justice. Nothing, except maybe Bill Otis."
July 29, 2015
How tough-on-crime policies depend on pro-victim rhetoric, and why that forms a formidable obstacle to getting new federal legislation passed.
“'This Is a Fundamentally Different Way of Policing’: Can Susan Herman repair the broken relationship between the New York Police Department and the city’s most disadvantaged residents?”
September 3, 2015
A veteran victims advocate plays a key role in trying to change the culture of policing. The story asks: What do better victim services have to do with better policing?
“Gangland: A new way of fighting crime, and helping victims, in Los Angeles — a city with no shortage of either.”
September 11, 2015
Four examples of anti-violence activism show what a community response to crime looks like when we really listen to victims.
“'They Knew It Was the Right Thing to Do’: The unlikely rise of restorative justice in a conservative upstate New York county.”
December 29, 2015
The rise and fall of a pioneering program in Genesee County, New York, illustrates why the restorative justice movement can contribute so much to justice and victim services — and why it has played a mostly marginal role.
“The Troubling Limits of the ‘Great Crime Decline’”
March 20, 2019
The fall of urban violence was a public health breakthrough that sociologist Patrick Sharkey has quantified in a vivid way, in longer life expectancy for black men. But extending this winning streak will require that ideologues on both the right and left show they truly care about black lives in ways they have not before.
“NYPD has been quietly revamping how it treats crime victims. The results are impressive.”
November 30, 2018
Nearly five years into a push to improve victim services, NYPD has compiled an impressive list of new programs that are undoubtedly good for victims. Can they also be good for crime control?
“Will Keeping Mass Killers Out of the Media Spotlight Save Lives?”
January 4, 2018
The Crime Report
A Q&A with Caren and Tom Teves, parents of a victim of the Aurora, Colorado, theater shootings and founders of the group No Notoriety.
“Can a New Victims Advocacy Movement Break Cycles of Violence? A growing number of organization are calling for shorter sentences for offenders and better counseling for victims”
January 13, 2016
Al Jazeera America
This is what victim-policy advocacy looks like when it’s aligned more with criminal-justice reform than with law enforcement.
"Victimizing Eric Garner's Family All Over Again"
December 5, 2014
Open Society Foundations "Voices" blog
How standard victim-services policy dictates that in the many instances in which we refuse to recognize victims as victims, they are denied the meager forms of help available to them.
“The Upside of Trauma: Worries about post-traumatic stress have become a stock part of the media narrative surrounding tragedies like Boston and Newtown. And resilience is supposedly the best we can hope for in the face of adversity. But what if there’s a third option? The story of one mass shooting, and the surprising tug of post-traumatic growth”
June 27, 2013
I chose a shooting in my hometown — a sniper attack on volunteer firefighters — to explore the impulse of a community to pull together after a shocking crime. That led me to the science behind the mind’s ability to turn trauma into psychological growth.
"Bullied into murder: destruction of a closeted youth"
December 27, 2012
Gay Star News
In this excerpt from my Kindle Single God's Nobodies, I describe Tim Ginocchetti's retreat into a dream state to protect himself from the homophobia of his family and church. Instead of anger and rage, he used fantasy play to try to avoid growing up, hoping he could forever remain an innocent young boy.
“Why Victims Face the Criminals Who Hurt Them: Some crime victims find their only real healing comes from a face-to-face meeting with the criminals who hurt them. Can research into this counterintuitive process help more victims regain control of their lives?”
December 20, 2010
The story of Texas’ longstanding program of victim-offender dialog services, the science behind it, and the struggle to provide such intensive help to victims.
“Book Seeks True Justice for Crime Victims: Susan Herman, author of Parallel Justice for Crime Victims, wonders what if society did not see its help for victims as mere compassion or charity, but a core societal obligation?"
December 20, 2010
A short summary of Herman’s work, which shows how the reforms in victim aid starting in the 1970s still fall far short of the actual need and outlines a new model for addressing all the needs that victims have.
“A Deeper Love: Four years ago, Esther Rufo’s small, safe world was shattered by a horrible tragedy. What she couldn’t have predicted: finding a way to embrace her daughter’s killer, her own grandson, Tim."
O, The Oprah Magazine
A grandmother’s love for her grandson leads to her expulsion from her marriage and family after explaining why the family’s membership in a particular church made the grandson’s hidden homosexuality such a fraught topic — and why it eventually led to bloodshed.
“This Man Says His Anti-violence Plan Would Save 12,000 Lives. Why aren’t more cities using it?”
September 11, 2019
I profiled Thomas Abt, whose new book on violence prevention challenges American cities to use evidence-based strategies, and watched as these ideas get used in Buffalo, N.Y., a typically struggling city that wants to make its streets safer while also improving police-community relations — always a tough balancing act.
“Council on Criminal Justice Aims to Provide ‘Center of Gravity’ for Reform”
July 23, 2019
The Crime Report
Coverage of the launch of a new research and advocacy group.
“'We’ve Been Doing Too Many Things Wrong for Too Long’”
January 10, 2018
The Crime Report
An interview with St. Louis federal judge E. Richard Webber on why he meets privately, face to face, with every person he sent to prison as soon as they are released.
“Why Jeff Sessions’ Recycled Crime-Fighting Strategy is Doomed to Fail: Funneling more gun criminals into federal prison won’t reduce homicides. Just look at St. Louis”
September 7, 2017
The Trace and Politico
The Trump administration’s primary violence-fighting strategy had a test run in the most violent city in America. Here’s what the numbers show, and what the federal government has done — and could do more of — to aid local policing and violence prevention.
“When Body Cameras Are Not Enough: Charlotte had already begun tactical and sensitivity training when their officers shot Keith Lamont Scott, pointing to the need for more-sweeping reforms that put trust and fairness first”
October 3, 2016
The American Prospect
Why police reform that doesn’t take on deeper issues in deeper ways may not be up to the task of mending relations.
“Oklahoma Struggles With Its Tough-on-Crime Past: In an effort to stem prison overcrowding and its expenses, the state tries a policy change — but implementing it hasn’t been easy”
September 19, 2016
As part of a package of stories on violence and redemption, this story traced the history of an especially punitive state as it tries to reform its laws. The story asks: Are marginal improvements worth the effort?
“Incarceration Nation: How We Got Here”
September 15, 2016
The Crime Report
A Q&A with Regan Hines, director of the documentary Incarcerating US, on his view that the story of mass incarceration revolves around the war on drugs.
“The Wonk’s Guide to What Works, and What Doesn’t, When Policing Violent Crime: A review of evidence-based strategies for addressing America’s violent crime epidemic can help cities move past knee-jerk responses — and focus on proven solutions.”
August 11, 2016
The Trace and The Crime Report
A scorecard on policing strategies to reduce gun violence, based on a new compendium of authoritative research on the subject, plus a Q&A with the book’s lead editor, David Weisburd.
“In Search of the Felon-Friendly Workplace”
June 25, 2016
The New York Times
An innovative program run by the federal probation office in St. Louis built a better job-training and placement service for former prisoners by appealing to business’ self-interest.
“One Street in Minnesota Separates Radically Different Policing Strategies: Minneapolis police are facing criticism for racism and abuse. They might learn from their counterparts just across the city line”
December 14, 2015
What shape has community-oriented policing taken over the years, and how is it playing out in a pair of cities wrestling in different ways with the same set of problems?
“The Gun Industry Survives Another Attempt to Puncture Its Legal Immunity Shield: But after a lawsuit brought by family members of Sandy Hook victims was tossed out, a judge leaves the door open for appeal”
October 17, 2016
Spot news coverage of a trial court ruling in the lawsuit against the maker and sellers of the AR-15 used in the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting.
“What the New Ruling In the Sandy Hook Lawsuit Actually Means: Victims’ families have claimed a ‘huge victory’ in their fight to hold Bushmaster liable for the massacre. But legal experts say the ruling doesn’t address the case’s biggest hurdle”
April 14, 2016
Spot news coverage of a preliminary ruling in the Sandy Hook gun litigation.
“A Major Straw Purchasing Case Against Gander Mountain Hopes to Provide a Playbook for Cracking the Gun Industry’s Legal Immunity: Lawyers for slain firefighters seek to use the gun industry’s own guidelines to hold careless sellers accountable”
April 11, 2016
Examining an innovative strategy by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence to try to circumvent the federal law that protects the industry from most lawsuits.
“He Won the Supreme Court Case That Transformed Gun Rights. But Dick Heller Is a Hard Man to Please: The 2008 Heller decision left lots of room for gun regulation. For its namesake, that meant the war had just begun”
March 20, 2016
The Trace and The Atlantic
I profiled Heller and showed how he has gravitated to an extreme wing of the gun-rights movement, in some ways turning his back on the legal standard his case actually set.
“Ted Cruz’s Artfully Exaggerated Gun-Rights Record: On the presidential trail, the Texas senator has taken credit for court victories in which he was a marginal player, while staking out no-compromise positions that obscure his former pragmatic streak”
February 18, 2016
The Trace and Vice
During Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, this story debunked some myths Cruz had created about his role in expanding gun rights.
“Should Assault Rifle Marketing Be Held Responsible for Assault Rifle Massacres?: A lawsuit brought by families of Sandy Hook victims tries to expose the industry strategies behind selling military-style guns to civilians”
February 16, 2016
The Trace and The Atlantic
An analysis of the Sandy Hook survivors’ lawsuit against the maker and sellers of the shooter’s AR-15 rifle.
“The Politician Who Brought America ‘Stand Your Ground’ Is Pushing to Make Self-Defense Claims More Bulletproof: The Florida bill comes just as the American Bar Association is about to release a report suggesting that such laws should be scaled back”
September 27, 2015
An analysis of Florida’s attempt to double down on its controversial self-defense law, with a follow-up on September 29, 2015, on the American Bar Association’s opposition to stand-your-ground laws.
“Into the sunrise: eulogy for a friend”
January 12, 2019
Once inseparable, we had grown apart. It’s a normal part of life. But it makes a death that much harder.
“Four Peaks: Remembering my favorite place on Earth — and my long and complicated relationship with its owner.”
The story of my family’s mountain getaway and its owner, Martin Schwalbaum. (This article, which appeared in the magazine’s At Home In The Adirondacks 2018 issue, won the 2019 gold medal for essays in the annual contest of the International Regional Magazine Association.)
“Trailblazers: Seven Vanderbilt Law alumni who made careers outside of law practice”
I profiled three of the seven: Sotheby’s deputy chairman and Asia chief Daryl Wickstrom, toy company entrepreneur Rick Engle of Little Kids, Inc., and thoroughbred breeder John Phillips of Kentucky’s Darby Dan Farm.
“He Won’t Miss Billable Hours: After being a managing partner, a GC, a CEO, and mayor of Rochester, Thomas Richards decided he’d rather be a grandfather”
The American Lawyer
A Q&A with the outgoing mayor of Rochester, New York, on his legal and political career.
“The Long Fight for Baby Veronica: When the Supreme Court ruled in the high-profile adoption battle over a little girl with Cherokee ancestry, the case seemed to be over. It wasn’t.”
December 17, 2013
The American Lawyer
The winning legal strategy in an emotional adoption case had the law on its side, but the case was anything but an easy call.
“The Fascinating Vampire Squids of Law: How rumors of the demise of Big Law keep getting grossly exaggerated”
July 24, 2013
Careers in Big Law look more dismal all the time. But that doesn’t mean the business, or its economic model, are going to change radically any time soon.
“A Nixon Peabody Staffer’s Personal Take on Gun Control”
May 22, 2013
The American Lawyer
The story of Ted Scardino, one of four volunteer firefighters shot in an ambush, who turned his tragedy into a mission to toughen federal laws on straw purchases of guns.
"46 Peaks, 35 Years"
Summer 2010 (PDF)
Central New York Sports
My overly long quest to climb all of New York's 46 highest mountains.
“Vote for Harriet!: The dubious professional distinctions of Harriet Miers”
October 25, 2005
About the only good things anyone could say when President Bush nominated his aide to the Supreme Court were that she had been a leader of the Texas bar and of a regional law firm. Here’s why those distinctions sound more important than they are.
“Learn to Love Your Lawyer: When it comes to attorneys, even the smartest business owners screw up. It doesn’t have to be that way — if you follow Inc.’s plan for managing your lawyer.”
War stories and advice from entrepreneurs about their relationships with their lawyers.