If you've turned on a television lately, you've likely come across an ad or two or a hundred for fantasy sports leagues, in which people are allowed to spend their money (daily, if they wish) on the game performances of professional players. Rack up enough points, and you can win big money. League operators say this is based on skill, which allows them to be exempt from federal gambling law. But now, after allegations of "insider trading" and a federal investigation into the business model used by these leagues, Nevada regulators (seeking to protect their signature industry from unregulated competition, after all) late Thursday ordered the leagues to "cease and desist" operations in the state. The sudden turn of fortune —tens of billions are at stake — exposes discrepancies in federal law and no small amount of hypocrisy on the part of sports leagues and the states in which they operate. Those leagues have invested in fantasy sports yet oppose efforts by states like New Jersey to allow sports betting. And most states promote lotteries even as they seek to block gambling. Nevada's bold move guarantees short-term chaos, and maybe even a Congressional hearing, but perhaps from that rubble will emerge a consistent legal approach to our new national pastime. — Andrew Cohen
STORY OF THE WEEK
America’s Rock Star Cops. Meet the fellowship of police chiefs, each battle-scarred in his or her own way, who revamped big-city policing a generation ago and are trying to do so again today, in a particularly fast-paced and unforgiving environment. TMP’s Simone Weichselbaum filed this report, on the eve of a big week for those chiefs in Washington.
THE BEST OF THE MARSHALL PROJECT
No, Hillary Clinton, marijuana convictions aren’t responsible for crowded prisons. During the debate on Tuesday, the Democratic front-runner made the same mistake Republican contender Carly Fiorina made one month earlier about the relationship between overcrowded prisons and low-level drug offenses. TMP’s Christie Thompson offers this reality check on an error we’ll likely see repeated.
Crowdsourcing bail reform. Behold “Bail Lab,” New York City’s experiment designed to help bring relief to thousands of citizens caught up in a torturous pretrial system. The idea is to seek advice from other jurisdictions, and to launch some experiments to see what works. Here is original commentary from Elizabeth Glazer, director of New York’s Office of Criminal Justice.
Do sentencing enhancements make sense? Politicians (and prosecutors) say that longer prison sentences for gun-related crimes prevent gun violence. But there is little evidence that this is true, and the costs of these longer sentences are getting harder and harder to sustain. Here’s another installment of our Justice Lab.
What solitary confinement reform can teach us. “The reality is that most correctional systems are woefully unprepared to respond to violence in any way other than segregation.” The struggle to curb solitary offers lessons about the campaign to achieve broader criminal justice reform. Here is original commentary from Taylor Pendergrass of the NYCLU.
Criminal justice stories from around the web as selected by our staff.
THE BEST OF THE REST
The case of Glenn Ford — who spent three decades in solitary confinement on Louisiana’s death row before he was exonerated, released, and denied compensation, all before succumbing to lung cancer — is a parable of shocking injustice. A 60 Minutes segment that aired Sunday managed in just a few minutes to capture all of the human complexity of his story, juxtaposing a prosecutor who can’t live with himself for how he treated Ford with another who is as forcefully unapologetic as ever. — Maurice Chammah
The hysteria surrounding Detroit’s “war on crack” exacted collateral costs that reverberate to this day. This week, The Intercept took readers back in time through a focus on a decades-old case that sheds light on widespread police abuses during that era. Shoddy tactics, such as coerced testimony and flimsy evidence, were an “open secret” for years, and explain why Detroit is among the jurisdictions where exoneration data has revealed “hotspots of misconduct.” — Alysia Santo
Does “groupthink” explain the rise of school shootings over the last few decades? In The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell explores that question through the story of John LaDue. At age 17, LaDue was caught by police plotting to attack his school and kill his parents. The eerie part is that, ostensibly, there was nothing wrong with him or his life. His inspiration, he said, came from the Eric Harrises of the world. “[My family] did nothing wrong,” LaDue said during his interrogation. “I just wanted as many victims as possible.” — Blair Hickman
This unnerving Fusion piece looks at a low-level crime: In 2009, four Florida teenagers broke into and ransacked an empty house. But while two of the boys were charged as juveniles, and are now getting on with their lives, two are still incarcerated. The piece sharply questions the “arbitrary, unfair, and often racist system” that allows prosecutors to make charging decisions. What struck me most were the stories of the two kids still in prison — that their lives and the lives of their loved ones were ransacked, too. — Beth Schwartzapfel
This sprawling take by Philadelphia Magazine details the highs and the lows of Charles Ramsey’s tumultuous career as police commissionerin the City of Brotherly Love. Ramsey announced his retirement on Wednesday after nearly half a century in law enforcement. One of the highs? Getting the murder rate under reasonable control. One of the lows? Presiding over a string of cops who lied, cheated, stole, and ultimately couldn’t be rooted out of the department he cherished. — Simone Weichselbaum
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