Over 95 years ago, New York City was the target of a terrorist attack that has yet to be solved. No suspects have ever been named in the attack that killed or injured over 400 Wall Street bystanders. In contrast to the attacks of September 11th, which occurred just around the corner from the 1920 bombing, this deadly event has been all but erased from the collective American consciousness.
Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in entertainment.
Back in 2014, the podcast Serial stormed into our culture with its in-depth look at a 1999 murder of a high school student in Baltimore. The podcast revolutionized the form and brought podcasting to the forefront. The first season dominated the iTunes charts, was satirized on Saturday Night Live, and even won a Peabody Award.
Its second season, about Bowe Bergdahl, a US sergeant who went AWOL during the War in Afghanistan, similarly dominated the charts but didn’t reach the heights of season one. Frankly, its unlikely any podcast ever will. The first season of Serial was lightning in a bottle.
But now comes season three, and while it continues to be unlikely anything will ever match the popularity of season one, this third season is even more important. While seasons one and two told the stories of specific, extraordinary cases, season three sets its sights on the mundane. This time, the team at This American Life and Serial took on telling the story of criminal justice in Cleveland over the course of a year. The reporters follow little cases: a bar fight, a drug bust, individuals who break parole. It tells the story of a fractured system: a system where the community doesn’t trust the police. A system where prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges alike are overtaxed and overly reliant on plea deals. A system that determines years of people’s lives, and could affect any of us at any time.
Season three of Serial isn’t as flashy as season one. There isn’t quite as much intrigue week to week. But it is examining the daily workings of criminal justice in America, and shedding light on problems that have been accepted for far too long. It’s investigative reporting at its best, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
There are millions incarcerated in American prisons, even many juveniles who were sentenced to long terms alongside adults. We talk to guests about how and why this happens, whether it should continue, and what life is like for young people behind bars.
Peter K. Enns, Associate Professor, Department of Government at Cornell University and author, Incarceration Nation: How the United States became the most punitive democracy in the world
Jean Trounstine, Professor, Middlesex Community College and author, Boy with a Knife: A story of murder, remorse, and a prisoner’s fight for justice
As technology evolves, more and more of us are relying on credit cards, debit cards and even apps like Venmo or Zelle to make payments. Gone are the days of physically cashing your check, now almost all of us use all direct-deposit. So what is the future of cash? We talk to one expert who lays out some of the nefarious uses of bills and coins.
Kenneth Rogoff, professor of economics at Harvard University and author, The Curse of Cash
Sexual offenders have to live by a very particular set of rules. They can’t live near playgrounds, they’re on a registry for life. These rules exist to make everyone safer. But they also can limit a reformed criminal’s ability to reintegrate into everyday life and be productive members of society.
Monica Williams, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Weber State University and author, The Sex Offender Housing Dilemma: Community activism, safety, and social justice
The technology used to catch criminals is constantly being invented and then reinvented. From fingerprints to DNA, advancements in technology have allowed authorities to more accurately and efficiently locate and apprehend criminals. Now, what may be the largest addition to the tool belt of the criminal justice system yet is the technology we all carry in our pockets daily.
Cellphones have long been used to find and convict criminals, mainly through call logs and cell tower triangulation, but mobile devices now serve as de facto personal GPS trackers with extreme accuracy. Oxygen Forensics Inc. creates software that allows investigators to extract and interpret data from practically any digital device. Lee Reiber, COO for the company, says there now exists more mobile devices than people on this Earth, and the uses for our mobile data are infinite.
Even if a suspect refuses to talk, their mobile data can serve as evidence of location, communication history, and proximity to others. It also holds records of all documents and information that many of us wrongly assume is private. Pressing delete doesn’t mean information can’t be recovered and, even in cases where no mobile phone is involved, Reiber says any ‘smart’ device that collects data (and they all do) can be utilized.
What else can the data being collected around us be used for? Jerry Ropelato is the CEO of White Clouds, a large scale 3D printing technology company. He says virtually any set of information can be transformed to a physical object using 3D printing.
Whether it’s used to create medical materials or to build a exact model of an object, the possibilities are endless. Recently, White Clouds aided a defense attorney by replicating a residential crime scene to better convey their side of the story to the jury. No matter the use of these technologies, one thing is clear. This is only the beginning phase of the possible applications and only time will tell the true impact.
Americans pride themselves on never forgetting the attacks and terrorism of our history, but somehow a 1920 attack on New York City has slipped through the cracks. Author Jed Rubenfeld talks about the first car bomb attack on Wall Street, the backdrop for one of his historical fiction novels.
Developing Forensic Technology: New solutions for tracking and convicting criminals
New gadgets and programs are constantly being invented. We talk to two leading experts on the subjects to highlight some of the software and hardware helping police and lawyers find the right criminals and get them convicted.