Along with Senior Editor Jacob Sullum, Radley Balko oversaw the editing of this special issue on the criminal justice system. Balko, 36, joined reason in 2007 after serving as a policy analyst at the Cato Institute. Before that he worked for “a string of aborted endeavors,” including a failed dot-com and a year and a half at “a very conservative nonprofit.” The latter job made him realize he was a libertarian. “They scared the hell out of me,” he says. At the beginning of May, Balko left reason to work for The Huffington Post, where he will continue to blog, write a fortnightly column on criminal justice, as well as longer investigative features.
Julie Stewart argues against mandatory minimum sentences in “Less Time, Less Crime” (page 44). Stewart, 54, founded Families Against Mandatory Minimums in 1991 after her brother, a first-time offender, was sentenced to five years in prison for growing marijuana—a sentence she says even the judge didn’t agree with. “I couldn’t believe judges no longer sentenced the individual but instead sentenced the crime,” she says. Two decades later, her group has several victories under its belt, winning greater sentencing discretion for judges in certain drug cases and blocking state and federal bills that would have imposed more draconian penalties.
In “The Guilt Market” (page 24), Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, criticizes the use of criminal informants. Natapoff, 45, says she became interested in the subject while working as a federal public defender in Baltimore, “where snitching is a common fact of life for inner-city residents.” Eventually she spent two years writing Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice (NYU Press). The “hardest part” of writing the book, she says, was trying to do justice to the topic. Its so broad: spanning law, culture, race, and politics. I was worried that I wouldnt properly convey the importance.