Will Criminal Justice Reform Ever Happen A Discussion Moderated by Van Jones Offers Answers

Criminal justice reform has long been an issue that has eluded tangible results. And with the negative consequences of what many consider to be a broken system becoming ever more apparentespecially among people and communities of colora major push is underway to finally enact change in the system.


Coinciding with the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, on Tuesday Van Jones, CNN contributor, president of The Dream Corps and co-founder of #cut50, a bipartisan effort to cut the U.S. prison population in half, moderated a panel to answer the question: Will criminal justice reform ever happen

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and a part of the drafting committee of this year’s Democratic Party platform. Lee said it’s the first time in history that a specific call to end mass incarceration has been included in a major political party’s platform.Lee also said the Black Lives Matter movement is included.

“We will push for a societal transformation to make it clear that black lives matter and that there is no place for racism in our country,” the platform states.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) addressed the fact that racial disparities in incarceration and sentencing keep people of color from the polls.

“One in five people in Florida cannot vote because of felonies,” he said. Booker has taken a lead in criminal justice reform, including introducing federal legislation that would allow ex-felons to vote in federal elections, regardless of state laws.

He also said the public plays a role ushering in reform by being engaged in what’s happening in communities and prisons.

“We’re marching, but we’re not getting engaged,” Booker said.

He said, as with the Civil Rights Movement, Washington doesn’t make the change, but citizens need to bring the change to Washington.

“It was creativity that woke up the consciousness of our country,” Booker said.

Former staffer for President Barack Obama and current New York Assemblyman Michael Blake said that in New York 16- and 17-year-olds are still prosecuted as adults. He also said that when analyzing criminal justice policies and procedures, you have to look at what led up to a particular case, rather than just analyzing the case itself.

Before their deaths, Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island, New York, and Alton Sterling was selling CDs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Blake said. The ways in which they attempted to earn a living indicate a lack of economic opportunity. Effective reform should take that into consideration.

Blake, who is scheduled take the stage at the convention with 40 national leaders for the “Our America” segment Wednesday evening ahead of Obama’s address, also discussed with DiversityInc tangible solutions to deter racial profiling.

Judith Browne Dianis, a civil rights attorney and co-director of Advancement Project, said the school to prison pipeline for people of color, especially Blacks, starts as early as kindergarten.

Dianis said there is a common “mentality that people of color are less than human or are seen as being criminal.”

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-Minn.) thoughts on Philando Castile’s death echoed that sentiment. He said Castile was stopped 52 times and was never arrested, and not one time did he do anything wrong.

Dianis referenced anincident a few years ago when a 6-year-old Black girl was arrested for having a tantrum over a game.She offered that a solution is more money for schools to improve the safety of children. “And by safety that doesn’t mean putting in more police,”Dianissaid.

Jessica Jackson Sloan is a human rights attorney and national director, and also a co-founder, of #cut50. Following the panel,Sloan spoke with DiversityInc about how her first marriage was destroyed by the incarceration industry when her then-husband was sentenced to prison for a non-violent, drug-related offense. She said #cut50 advocates the use of empathy in criminal justice reform in order to facilitate change.

Latest News

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…

AbbVie Joins Over 400 Leading US Employers in the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Business Coalition for the Equality Act’

Originally published on LinkedIn. AbbVie ranked No. 19 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   AbbVie has joined a group of over 400 corporations and leading U.S. employers to support the Human Rights Campaign’s “Business Coalition for the Equality Act,” an initiative advocating for federal…

Accenture and Goodwill Develop Virtual Experience To Help People Impacted by the Criminal Justice System Enter the Workforce

Originally published at prnewswire.com. Accenture is ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   Goodwill Industries International has teamed with Accenture to develop an innovative virtual experience called Project Overcome. The experience is designed for people impacted by the criminal justice system who want to…