I know that we were supposed to select a think tank that fit into one of the three types, but I found the Urban Institute to be too interesting to ignore. Focusing on topics that range from ‘crime and justice’ to ‘retirement and older Americans,’ it’s no wonder that the Urban Institute is always working on over 200 different projects at any given time.

Based in Washington D.C., their website states that their mission statement is: “Our mission: the Urban Institute gathers data, conducts research, evaluates programs, offers technical assistance overseas, and educates Americans on social and economic issues — to foster sound public policy and effective government.” In other words, the Urban Institute serves a number of functions: to observe and identify social and economic issues in American society; to assess the effectiveness of current public policy and programs; and to educate the public on key domestic issues.

The Urban Institute was established in 1968 by Lyndon B. Johnson in an effort to study to the urban problems and evaluate the effectiveness of the Great Society programs. The Institute was comprised of well-known economists and civil leaders to create the non-partisan, independent research organization. Now, the federal government accounts for a little more than half of the funding, with foundations, state and local governments, and private individuals funding the rest.

On their website, the Urban Institute enumerates their top 42 accomplishments over the last 42 years since they have been in operation. If you don’t want to look through the entire list, a few of their main accomplishments include, facilitating the adoption of an evaluation system of social programs by four cabinet-level agencies; fostering the introduction of “block grants” to states; concluding that the economic contributions of immigrants exceed the amount of assistance they receive from the government; among others. Currently, a few of their projects involve state implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the impact of federal expenditures on children, and the reintegration of prisoners in society.

If I were to work for a think tank, I would want to work for a think tank that focused primarily on government issues. There are so many different areas that the federal government has to deal with that I don’t think that each issue gets enough attention. Therefore, I think it’s important to have these think tanks to put in the time and effort that the federal government doesn’t have to conduct research, evaluate the current policies and programs, and identify where the problems and successes lie.

If I had the resources to create a think tank, I think the issue I would focus on is the wrongful convictions of individuals. There is already something called The Innocence Project that is a “national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice,” but I wasn’t really sure if it would be considered a “think tank.” The think tank would not only be responsible for exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals, but it would go into conducting research to see the context in which the cases went wrong, i.e., was the case racially motivated, did witnesses get pressured into changing their statements, and so on. Lately, there has been so much criticism of the justice system, particularly with the Trayvon Martin case, that I believe that more efforts need to focused on identifying and repairing the holes in the legal system.


8 responses »

  1. Mike says:

    I like your idea for your think tank to focus on government issues. I think the public is too ignorant on what is happening in our government. It is scary to think of how little people know about what politicians are doing, and how many of them cast a vote (I am guilty of this). A think tank about government issues that are free to the public would be very beneficial to our country. It would make voters more aware and proactive in determining how our country should be run. Corruption would probably be reduced and our country’s unnecessary spending would be weeded out. I know I would enjoy a unbiased, educational view of what our government is actually doing.

  2. Kate says:

    Connie, I like your idea of founding a think tank devoted to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals. In relation to my post about the death penalty several weeks ago, corrections do need to be made to our legal system, especially when someone’s life is at stake. During the Troy Davis trial in 2011, seven of the witnesses admitted that they were pressured to lie on the stand. Unfortunately, they admitted this information a little too late.

    Forensic analysts also need to constantly be re-tested in their abilities to examine and study DNA from a crime scene because at times, not only do analysts use improper or invalid techniques, but they have fabricated the results. If this think tank taught analysts to learn from their mistakes, it will reduce the likelihood of another innocent victim being executed or being sent to jail.

  3. Sarah says:

    I think a think tank dedicated to wrongful convictions is a great idea. Especially for a country that has the death penalty. If more people were working to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals I wonder how many people would actually be found innocent. I would guess that it would be more people then everyone would expect. I feel that specifically with jury cases there are so many factors that go into a conviction that aren’t necessarily grounded in factual evidence. People on the jury might have a predetermined opinion on the case before it even begins or they could be swayed by an emotional witness or societal stereotypes. In cases where the facts are sparse the rulings are based mostly on circumstantial evidence which could lead to wrongful convictions.

  4. Hannah says:

    I think an interesting angle that your think tank could unleash would be that after someone was found innocent after being wrongfully convicted, you could also look into WHY that person was found guilty in the first place. Perhaps evidence really did lead the authorities and courts to believe that someone was guilty, but I would be willing to bet that your think tank would expose a significant amount of corruption in the justice system. That could result in a whole other think tank in itself-looking into corruption of the agencies that we are supposed to trust.

  5. brookeparker16 says:

    Recently in the media, there has been a lot of this idea that innocent people could be in jail for crimes they did not commit. We saw this in Prison Break, Shawshank Redemption and in real life Amanda Knox. Although Amanda was held in an Italian prison, the tragedy of this is universal. What is awful is I am sure American were more ready to rally behind Amanda because they could blame Italy for the injustice. I wonder if Americans would be so sure of her innocence if she was found guilty in the United States. I really like this idea!!

    • Paul Martin says:

      Brooke, if you’re into those type of movies/TV shows you should check out the movie “The Hurricane.” An awesome lesser known movie of Denzel Washington’s. It’s another true story: he plays a boxer named Rubin Carter who spent almost 20 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted.

  6. Paul Martin says:

    Connie, your think tank definitely has some real potential, but I’m almost scared about what it might unleash. I might take a slightly different route to accomplish somewhat of the same goal; I think I’d be more of a fan of a think tank that has the goal of eliminating Death Row and capital punishment from the penal system. There should definitely be something to help out people who are wrongfully convicted but aren’t on Death Row, but as far as those people sentenced to death, I would prefer some other form of punishment. Death Row is already notorious for costing the public massive amounts in tax dollars every year, and I’d be afraid that any further meddling with the system might only serve to increase those costs. That said, your heart is obviously in the right place.

  7. […] Co-Best Criticism of a Think Tank: Cheryl – Worldwatch: Gloomy or Realistic? & Connie – 200+ Projects and Counting… […]

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