When crime goes up, divining the root of the problem is usually as ideologically fraught as it is practically impossible. But this probing feature from Alec MacGillis eludes both traps. Instead, it examines two American cities and comes to a conclusion that’s all the more compelling for its obviousness: stop letting people rot in jail. (This piece was co-published with ProPublica, and you can also read it there, paywall-free. But the other headline — “Two Cities Took Different Approaches to Pandemic Court Closures. They Got Different Results.” — overwhelmed our sidebar.)

As the nationwide homicide rate continued to increase in 2021, Wichita managed to buck the trend: Homicides there declined that year, to 54, a drop of 9 percent from the year before. Countless factors probably contributed, but local officials are convinced that their ability to get the courts running played a role.