Across the nation, there is remarkable energy and momentum for ending mass incarceration and ensuring equal justice for all.
Yet, achieving these goals—and ensuring we don’t simply repeat past mistakes—cannot be done without an explicit commitment to addressing the racial inequities that lie at the foundation of our criminal justice system. As a growing number of scholars and activists have illuminated, the American criminal justice system is rooted in a history of white supremacy and racial control that spans from slavery and Jim Crow to the War on Drugs and modern police brutality. Real reform is not possible without an acknowledgement of this painful fact.
Prosecutors wield a tremendous amount of power in this system. With increased focus on prosecutors and the current potential for prosecution reform, we believe prosecutors must own their role in addressing the egregious racial disparities in the justice system and center the pursuit of racial equity in their work.
In order to help them do so, the Vera Institute of Justice’s Reshaping Prosecution program and John Jay College’s Institute for Innovative Prosecution have launched a joint initiative to guide prosecutors in racial equity-centered work. The initiative will bring together racial justice scholars, forward-thinking prosecutors, individuals directly impacted by the system, and other stakeholders to develop a framework and guidance document for rooting prosecution both in human dignity and in the human capacity to grow and change.
Through this effort, we aim to develop a response to racial disparities in the prosecution of individuals, which has resulted in the gross overrepresentation of people of color in the justice system. We ask those who participate in the initiative to commit to a collaborative and bold process that will confront the ways that traditional prosecution dehumanizes people—particularly people of color—and forge a vision and an actionable plan for prosecutors to uphold human dignity and pursue racial justice. Further, we ask participants to imagine a drastically different role of the prosecutor and the justice system in order for both to operate according to different core principles than those that have driven these systems to-date. This will require learning from and honoring those who have championed racial equity work in the past, while holding ourselves accountable to greater justice within the field of prosecution going forward.
Participants will commit to a number of steps as part of the initiative. The effort will launch with a convening in Montgomery, Alabama June 5-7. Following the convening, participants will join monthly working group calls and gather again as a large group at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City in December. Our aim is to release guidance that will help prosecutors implement policies and practices to promote racial equity in early 2020.
Reimagining Prison, Vera Institute of Justice
Race and Prosecution, Angela J. Davis, John Chisholm, and David Noble
Articles by Joseph Margulies
Prosecution and Race: The Power of Privilege of Discretion, Angela J. Davis
New York’s Historic Opportunity for Bail Reform and Public Safety, Nicholas Turner and Insha Rahman
Hotel & Travel
Thank you for joining us June 5-7 in Montgomery, Alabama. We are looking forward to the first chapter of the Dignity, Racial Justice, and Prosecution initiative. Below is information on hotel and travel.
We will reserve rooms at the Hampton Inn, which is located in downtown Montgomery and is within walking distance of the Museum and Memorial. The IIP/Vera team will reserve rooms for participants if requested via the RSVP Survey above. Rooms are available beginning the night of Tuesday, June 4.
Hampton Inn & Suites Montgomery – Downtown
100 Commerce Street
Montgomery, Alabama, 36104
To book with a travel agent, please email the travel agency JTBUSA at travel@JTBUSA.com. Let them know you are looking to arrange travel for the Dignity, Racial Justice, and Prosecution initiative. The travel agent will charge the Vera-IIP team directly.
If you would like to book travel on your own, please save your receipts and we will reimburse you following the convening. If you would like to drive, please save your receipts and we will reimburse you for costs (tolls, parking, mileage) following the convening as well.
Note that our program will formally begin at 11:00 AM on June 5th. A late breakfast will be served at the hotel at 10:00 AM that morning for participants who arrive on June 4th or the morning of the 5th.
Please fill out the form above to give us an idea of your travel plans. Please book travel by Wednesday, May 15.