April 24, 2017

Criminal Justice Reform

The Weissberg Forum frames and conducts difficult dialogues that are informed, rigorous, and civil, the sort of conversation and debate that academic institutions are intended to promote. Previous Weissberg Forum events have addressed gender, immigration, healthcare, and most recently, a forum focused on how our reliance on technology has created a “Big Data” revolution that has transformed how we live, work, and think.  The 5th Annual Weissberg Forum for Discourse in the Public Square focused on criminal justice reform.

The United States has less than five percent of the world’s total population yet almost 25 percent of the world's total prison population. Ever since President Richard M. Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971, the U.S. prison population has increased by 408 percent. One in 35 adults in this country are under some form of correctional control, which includes jails, prisons, parole and probation. The last year has seen an increasing debate over incarceration numbers, questions as to whether current policies and politics unfairly target minorities, contribute to rising costs, and whether sufficient support is accessible for rehabilitation and reentry of the population into American society.

Among the questions the Forum explored are: What reforms are necessary to make our communities safe while treating all people fairly? How can we make the system more cost-effective? And what can be done to commute unfair sentencing and overturn mandatory minimum laws that remain in effect throughout the country?

Keynote Address

Glenn Martin

Glenn E. Martin

Glenn E. Martin is the President and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), an organization dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030.  He is part of the vanguard of advocates working to make that future a reality.


Meet the Panel

Rachel Barkow

Rachel Barkow

Rachel Barkow is a Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy, as well as Faculty Director at the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at NYU School of Law. 


Ernest Drucker, PhD

Ernest Drucker

Ernest Drucker, PhD is Research Scientist and Professor of Public Health at New York University , School of Global Public Health; Visiting Scholar at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY; Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University; and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Family and Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine.


Kirk James

Kirk A. James

Kirk Anthony James is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. He completed his doctorate from the School of Social Policy and Practice at The University of Pennsylvania in May 2013.


Michael Bosworth

Michael Bosworth

Michael Bosworth is a Senior Fellow with the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at NYU and is teaching a seminar on the Executive and Criminal Justice Reform in Spring 2017. 



About the Film


Schumann Media Center, Inc.
Brick City TV LLC,
in association with
Public Square Media, Inc.

Produced by:
Marc Levin, Mark Benjamin

Rolake Bamgbose

Jason Pollard


The United States is facing a crisis of mass incarceration with over 2.2 million people packed into its jails and prisons. To understand the human toll of this crisis, Rikers Island is a good place to start. Of the more than 7,500 people detained at Rikers Island on any given day, almost 80% have not yet been found guilty or innocent of the charges they face. All are at risk in the pervasive culture of violence that forces people to come to terms with what they must do for their own survival. RIKERS: AN AMERICAN JAIL, a riveting new documentary from Bill Moyers, brings you face to face with men and women who have endured incarceration at Rikers Island. Their stories, told direct to camera, vividly describe the cruel arc of the Rikers experience—from the shock of entry, to the extortion and control exercised by other inmates, the oppressive interaction with corrections officers, the beatings and stabbings, the torture of solitary confinement and the many challenges of returning to the outside world.

70 min., 2016, USA

About the Forum

Through the generosity of Trustee Nina Weissberg, New York University has established the Weissberg Forum for Discourse in the Public Square at its Constance Milstein and Family Global Academic Center in Washington, D.C. The Center provides study away and internship experiences for NYU students, offers research residencies for NYU faculty and graduate students, as well as rich academic and cocurricular programming. The Weissberg Forum is an annual signature event that brings together distinguished figures from government, industry, the professions, and the academy to discuss complex and timely issues from a variety of perspectives.