Criminal Law and Justice

Justice League

December 1, 2020  • Institute Staff

“We are reckoning with historic truths not all of us were willing to face up to,” said Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, at an event hosted by the Institute’s Criminal Justice Reform Initiative and the Institute’s McCloskey Speaker Series. “But in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, we no longer can deny racism.” It’s hard to overstate how much the ground has shifted in the effort to transform the criminal justice system. This year, mass protests erupted across the country when there was a senseless killing of a Black person at the hands of the police. It also fueled support to reimagine criminal justice, taking social, economic, educational, and health disparities into account. To that end, the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, which launched last spring, hosted a discussion with Walker as well as actress, playwright, and Institute trustee Anna Deavere Smith and Reverend Vivian Nixon, the executive director of College & Community Fellowship and an Institute Ascend Fellow. “It’s important to say clearly that justice and safety are our objective,” Walker said. “Some have framed this conversation in a false dichotomy: we either have safety or we have justice. I categorically reject that. We can have safe communities, and we can have Black and brown bodies treated with dignity.”