Step-by-Step – What more is needed in criminal justice reform

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Last week SPA co-sponsored Leadership in Action: Criminal Justice Reform, an event hosted by The Hill. I participated in the event, representing SPA, and gave remarks highlighting the overwhelming bipartisan support we saw last year when Congress passed the First Step Act. I followed the conversation when Congress was working on criminal justice reform, and while I’m glad all the talk on the Hill resulted in the passage of new legislations, I hope that the First Step Act is just that, a first step.

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Examining the role of public defenders in disrupting racial injustice

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Photo used with permission from Richard Ross.

www.juvenile-in-justice.com

 

Michelle Alexander wrote in The New Jim Crow: “The fate of millions of people—indeed the future of the black community itself—may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.”

February is Black History Month. It’s a time for everyone to reflect on the legacy of progress that black leaders have left throughout history in the fight for liberation, equitable treatment, and empowerment. It is also a time for white allies to examine what they could be doing better to interrupt their own racism and that of others, what it means to support black leadership, and how our nation’s policies continue to oppress black lives. And indeed, it is a time for white allies to heed Alexander’s call to re-examine the role of the criminal legal system in society.

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Reframing our perception of young people in the juvenile justice system

I believe in art! I see it as a powerful tool whether used in teaching, as I’ve seen first-hand through the eyes of my good friend, Sara, who is an art teacher in a DC elementary school, or as I experienced this week during a remarkable photo exhibit, by Richard Ross, which focuses on juvenile injustice.

As I looked at the photos of young people not much older than my daughter, incarcerated and isolated I wondered: is it possible to reframe our perception IMG_20190205_160355of young people in the juvenile justice system to see them as young adolescents who are still developing, instead of, in a discriminatory manner, labeling and incarcerating them as offenders for adolescent behavior –ultimately causing irreparable harm?

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