top of page

Welcome to Crime and Justice News

Criminal Justice Reformer Herb Hoelter Dies At 73

Herb Hoelter, a criminal justice advocate who believed in second chances, died last month at 73. His daughter, Katie, said her father was working for the Niagara Falls, N.Y., Police Department as a youth mentor and coaching basketball when some of his players were arrested. “He said he went to go find them and the jail conditions were so terrible that it opened his eyes to the injustice of the criminal justice system and set his eyes on reform. “He saw the value in what second chances could do.” In 1977, Hoelter co-founded the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) with Jerry Miller and worked on reforming the juvenile justice system by both drumming up public support against individual facilities and lobbying for policies on Capitol Hill, the Baltimore Sun reports. The two successfully moved youths out of the Camp Hill, Pa., corrections facility, which had been housing 800 adults and 400 children.

“At the time they would just lock kids up. Herb and Jerry got so much political flack for trying to change that. Nobody wanted to shut those facilities down in the ’70s,” said Carole Argo, current CEO of NCIA, which is headquartered in Baltimore. “I never met anyone like him. He never saw anyone he didn’t think the best of and believed, ‘Hey, with the right support, this person could be amazing.’“ In the 1980s, Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer enlisted the NCIA to close the Montrose School after the suicide of a 13-year-old in solitary confinement. Earl El-Amin, NCIA’s vice president of community and external affairs, was a caseworker alongside Hoelter finding alternatives for the youths formerly housed in the Montrose School. “He had a commitment to improving the human condition. His humanity was on another level than what I’ve seen before,” El-Amin said. “He fervently believed that individuals deserved a second chance. He fervently believed that, so he established NCIA and made sure the organization continued to grow.” Hoelter and Miller edited “The Real War on Crime” by Steven Donziger, an examination of the failure of tough-on-crime policies, while growing NCIA from localized struggles to a national organization providing pro bono legal support and championing rehabilitative justice practices.


Recent Posts

See All

Omaha New Juvenile Detention Center is Complete But Empty

Something is missing in Omaha’s new juvenile detention center: the juveniles. A year after the controversial project’s completion, the $27 million, 64-bed center remains empty, because it’s not big en

Rhode Island State Police Diversifying, Though Slowly

Most applicants to the Rhode Island State Police are white men. In 2023, white men comprised 75% of the state police ranks in the state. Women represented about 10%, while people of color of all gende


A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

bottom of page