Criminal Law and Justice

Local Justice Journalism

June 13, 2022  • Criminal Justice Reform Initiative

While federal criminal justice policy gets a lot of attention, arguably the most important reforms are occurring in local jurisdictions. And many of those efforts are led by elected local justice leaders – sheriffs, DAs and prosecutors – or are being advanced through local ballot measures. These thousands of crucial elections, however, aren’t getting much attention in the national press; even local press may pay only the most cursory attention, though the ramifications for local and national justice reform may be immense.

Journalist and editor Daniel Nichanian has been focused on these races and issues his whole career. Formerly at The Appeal, and now launching his own digital magazine, Bolts, his focus on reporting local justice issues and elections gives important insights into the sometimes hidden, yet transformational work happening throughout the US. Join us for this episode of Shades of Freedom as Nichanian discusses the national importance of local reporting and local elections on justice reform, how the financial challenges of local journalism plays into this, and what he’s seeing across the country now as voters make choices about electing local justice leaders.

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Guest Biography

Daniel Nichanian is the editor-in-chief and founder of Bolts, a digital publication launched in February 2022 that covers the nuts and bolts of political power and political change, from the local up. He is a writer and journalist who works on criminal justice, voting rights, local politics, and political theory.

Nichanian completed a PhD in political theory in 2016 at the University of Chicago, and later worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago. He is also a former editor at The Appeal. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Vox, FiveThirtyEight, Democracy, Philosophy & Rhetoric, Syndicate Theology, New York Magazine, Vox, and more.

About Shades of Freedom

Shades of Freedom, from The Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, is a new podcast amplifying and uplifting promising efforts aimed at reducing mass incarceration, and looking at the ecosystem of related inequalities that surrounds and perpetuates incarceration.

The podcast can be found on all the major platforms, including Apple, Google, and Spotify. You can also listen from the series home page or listen to the current episode at the top of this page.

The Shades of Freedom podcast, hosted by Dr. Douglas E. Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, is named after and inspired by the book Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process, by Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.