Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek

Laura Faer, the Education Rights Director for the Public Counsel Law Center, talks with host David Onek about the movement to reform California’s broken school discipline process.

Interview Highlights

On school suspensions in California:

Actress Sonja Sohn, known for her role on the HBO series The Wire, talks with host David Onek about her work as co-founder of Rewired for Change, a nonprofit supporting at-risk youth in Baltimore. She also discusses how her personal life has shaped her commitment to ending children’s exposure to violence, the power of leveraging celebrity to fuel social change and much more.  

Interview Highlights

On what motivated her to start her own nonprofit:

Nancy Mullane, author of Life After Murder: Five Men in Search of Redemption, discusses the stories of five men at San Quentin prison convicted of murder and then released on parole, how she built trust with these men, the Governor’s unique role in California’s parole process, the extremely low recidivism rates for paroled murderers, and more.

Nancy Mullane Interview Highlights

Mullane on Why She Wrote Life After Murder:

Paul Ekman, UCSF Professor Emeritus of Psychology,discusses how his research on facial expressions and emotions can improve public safety, the criticism he has received from colleagues for working with law enforcement, his discussions with the Dalai Lama about forgiveness and responsibility, the pros and cons of having his work portrayed on the TV show “Lie to Me,” and more. 

Paul Ekman Interview Highlights

Ekman on Criticism From Colleagues That He Works Too Closely with Law Enforcement:

In Episode #34, Santa Cruz Chief Probation Officer Scott MacDonald discusses reducing racial disparities in the juvenile justice system, partnering with the community, using data to drive decision-making, sustaining reforms through leadership transitions, and more. 

Scott MacDonald Interview Highlights

MacDonald on Partnering with the Community:


In Episode #33, Orange County Superior Court Judge Wendy Lindley discusses her innovative Combat Veterans court, overcoming the initial resistance of other judges to collaborative courts, providing “one-stop” services at the courthouse, and how collaborative courts can make us safer.

Judge Wendy Lindley Interview Highlights

Lindley on Providing “One-Stop” Services at the Courthouse:

Criminal justice expert David Onek recently sat down with Stanford law professor Joan Petersilia to talk about California’s criminal justice realignment. Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former San Francisco Police Commissioner; Petersilia is the former President of the American Society of Criminology and served as a special advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here’s what they had to say.

Joyce Hicks, Executive Director of the San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC), discusses San Francisco’s strong police oversight model, the OCC’s innovative mediation program, working with police unions, the investigative and auditor models of police oversight, and more. 

Joyce Hicks Interview Highlights

Hicks on the Office of Citizen Complaints’ Innovative Mediation Program:

In Episode #31, Connie Rice, Co-Director of the Advancement Project, discusses how she got involved in gang prevention work, her efforts to reform the Los Angeles Police Department through both lawsuits and collaboration, her partnership with former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, an innovative life skills program in LA’s jails, and more.

Connie Rice Interview Highlights

Rice on Moving From the Outside to the Inside to Reform LAPD:

In Episode #30, San Francisco Chief Adult Probation Officer Wendy Still discusses the importance of building partnerships with city agencies and community-based organizations, San Francisco’s plans to increase services as part of criminal justice realignment, the unique needs of female offenders, opportunities for women in the criminal justice field, and more.

Wendy Still Interview Highlights

Still on Building Partnerships:

In Episode #28, Greg Berman, Director of the Center for Court Innovation, discusses the creation of the Midtown Community Court, the importance of tailoring reform efforts to the needs of the communities involved, the different ways that criminal justice reforms can fail, procedural justice, and more.

Greg Berman Interview Highlights

Berman on the Ideas Behind Community Courts: 

In Episode #27, Javier Stauring, Co-Director of the Office of Restorative Justice of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, discusses his experience ministering to incarcerated youth and their families, the pros and cons of closing California’s Division of Juvenile Justice, the power of restorative justice, his efforts to end life without parole for juveniles, and more.

Javier Stauring Interview Highlights

Stauring on the Overlap of Incarceration and Victimization in Families:

In Episode #26, Gena Castro Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Youth Justice Institute, discusses the unique needs of girls in the juvenile justice system, using her direct service experience to inform policy debates, partnering effectively with probation departments, using data to improve programming, and more.

Gena Castro Rodriguez Interview Highlights

Castro Rodriguez on Building Trust with Youth:

In Episode #25, Alameda County Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad discusses California's criminal justice realignment, his efforts to reform Washington, DC's juvenile justice system, the importance of building community partnerships, how he went from being a youth on probation in Oakland to the Chief Probation Officer, and more.

David Muhammad Interview Highlights:

Muhammad on California’s Criminal Justice Realignment:

In Episode #23, Program Director at Community Justice Works Sujata Baliga discusses her innovative restorative justice work in the Alameda County juvenile justice system, how she got strong buy-in from law enforcement for restorative justice programming, her own personal history as a survivor of crime and her experience sharing her story with people serving time for violent offenses, and more.

Sujata Baliga Interview Highlights

Baliga on How Restorative Justice Differs from the Traditional Justice System:

In Episode #22, Former Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections Patricia Caruso discusses how Michigan reduced its prison population and reduced recidivism through a “Justice Reinvestment” strategy, why corrections officials should care about what happens when people leave prison, Michigan’s innovative reentry initiative, lessons other states can take from the Michigan experience, and more.

Patricia Caruso Interview Highlights

Caruso on the Culture Change in How Wardens See Their Role:

In Episode #21, Co-Founder of the Stanford Three Strikes Project Michael Romano discusses how the California Three Strikes law can lead to life sentences for people with minor offenses, how students in his project have helped a dozen such clients get released from prison after having their sentences reduced, and the need to reform Three Strikes so that it focuses on serious and violent offenders.

Michael Romano Interview Highlights

In Episode #20, Director of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office in the U.S. Department of Justice Bernard Melekian discusses how the fiscal crisis will change policing, “values-based policing,” bringing a local law enforcement perspective to federal policy-making, federal efforts to partner with local law enforcement, and more.

Bernard Melekian Interview Highlights

Melekian On How the Fiscal Crisis Will Change Policing:

In Episode #19, Executive Director of the Boston Ten Point Coalition Rev. Jeffrey Brown discusses why he got involved in working with youth to prevent violence, developing a close working relationship with law enforcement, the importance of data-driven violence reduction strategies, Boston's upcoming city-wide gang mediation effort, and more.

Rev. Jeffrey Brown Interview Highlights

Brown on Why He Got Involved in Working With Youth To Prevent Violence:

In Episode #18, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis discusses the need for police leadership in reentry, East Palo Alto's innovative reentry partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), the importance of fair and impartial policing, and being a finalist for the Seattle Police Chief and New Orleans Police Chief positions.

Ron Davis Interview Highlights

Davis on Police Leadership in Reentry:

In Episode #17, Benjamin Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, discusses the NAACP's new "Smart and Safe" criminal justice initiative, his support for the National Criminal Justice Act, the consequences of the nation's incarceration policies, the importance of parents taking responsibility for truancy, and more.

Jealous Interview Highlights

Jealous on the Consequences of the Nation’s Incarceration Policies:

In Episode #16, Susan Manheimer, San Mateo Police Chief and California Police Chiefs Association President, discusses why she became a police officer, becoming the first woman Chief in San Mateo and first woman President of the Police Chiefs Association, using community policing to reduce crime, collaborating regionally with the other Bay Area Chiefs and more.

Manheimer Interview Highlights

In Episode #15, James Bell, Executive Director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, discusses his work to reduce the overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system, the involvement of community members in the reform process, the importance of data-driven decision-making, California's leadership role in reducing racial and ethnic disparities, and more.

In Episode #14, Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice, discusses bridging the gap between researchers and practitioners, the promise of problem-solving courts, strengthening the indigent defense system, partnering with state and local law enforcement, and more.

Robinson Interview Highlights

Robinson on Making Research Accessible to Practitioners and Policymakers

In Episode #13, Kevin Grant, Oakland Street Outreach Coordinator, discusses how he maintains credibility with both young people and law enforcement, how he turned his life around after fifteen years behind bars, how he fosters relationships with employers to help people with prior convictions find jobs, and more.

Grant Interview Highlights

Grant on Taking Responsibility Rather Than Always Blaming the Police

In Episode #12, Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts discusses his goals as Oakland's new Chief, the importance of working with the community, his efforts to reduce police response times, how his doctorate degree has helped him in his policing career, and more.

Batts Interview Highlights

Batts on His Goals for the Oakland Police Department:

In Episode #11, Berkeley Law Professor Frank Zimring discusses New York City's remarkable crime decline in the past twenty years and the related policy implications.

Zimring Interview Highlights

Zimring on the Unprecedented Decline in New York City's Crime Rate:

In Episode #10, Mimi Silbert, President and CEO of the Delancey Street Foundation, discusses the unique Delancey Street rehabilitation model, the success of Delancey Street’s businesses, her attempts to partner with the state to reform the California prison system, the need for political leadership on criminal justice issues, and more.

Silbert Interview Highlights

Silbert on the Goals of Delancey Street’s Training Schools:

In Episode #9, Jeanne Woodford, former Warden of San Quentin State Prison and former Acting Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, discusses becoming San Quentin’s first woman warden, the impact of prison programming cuts on public safety, the reasons for her resignation from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the opportunity for criminal justice ref

In Episode #8, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris discusses how we can be "Smart on Crime," her innovative Back on Track program, the need for law enforcement to proactively build trust with the community, her mother's influence or her career, and more.

Harris Interview Highlights

Harris on Being Smart on Crime: