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?
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.
His goal is to amplify the voice of the people most impacted, and to position them as reform leaders. At its core, JLUSA challenges the assumption that formerly incarcerated people lack the skills to thoughtfully weigh in on policy reform. Rather, JLUSA is based on the principle that people closest to the problem are also the people closest to its solution.
Mr. Martin speaks from personal experience, having spent six years incarcerated in a New York State prison in the early 1990s. That experience has informed his career, which has been recognized with honors such as the 2017 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the 2014 Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellowship. Mr. Martin is also the founder of the #CLOSErikers campaign. Prior to founding JLUSA, he was the Vice President of The Fortune Society, one of the most respected reentry organizations in the country, the Co-Director of the National HIRE Network at the Legal Action Center, and one of the Co-Founders of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition.
Mr. Martin’s bold, unflinching leadership is recognized by leaders from across the political spectrum. Praise from Karol V. Mason, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs is representative of the accolades he has received: “Thanks to you and so many other like you, we are on our way to restoring common sense to our corrections policies and correcting a terrible imbalance in this country.” Mr. Martin is a sought after public speaker and a frequent media guest appearing on national news outlets such as NPR, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, Al Jazeera and CSPAN.
Despite these accolades and achievements, Mr. Martin has continued to experience the stigma of a record, even while being recognized as a national justice reform leader. He was invited to the White House in 2015 to discuss mass incarceration and law enforcement issues. Before being allowed to enter, he was separated from his colleagues by the Secret Service and required to wear a special credential and have an escort—all due to his past conviction. After this embarrassing episode, he was ushered into his scheduled meeting late, after all other guests had been seated and the justice reform meeting had already begun without him. The irony was not lost on Mr. Martin. Leveraging his national platform, he published an open letter to President Obama in the Wall Street Journal, explaining that this type of treatment “erodes the life” of principles of justice and fairness. He was later invited back to the White House to speak on a panel and meet with President Obama. Today Mr. Martin continues to use his multiple platforms to influence justice policy and lift up the voices of those most impacted.
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.
Rachel Barkow’s scholarship focuses on applying the lessons and theory of administrative and constitutional law to the administration of criminal justice. She has written more than 20 articles, is a co-author on one of the country’s leading criminal law casebooks, and is recognized as one of the country’s leading experts on criminal law and policy. She received the NYU Distinguished Teaching Award in 2013 and the Law School’s Podell Distinguished Teaching Award in 2007. In June 2013, the Senate confirmed her as a member of the United States Sentencing Commission. Since 2010, she has also been a member of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Policy Advisory Panel. After graduating from Northwestern University (BA ’93), Barkow attended Harvard Law School (’96), where she won the Sears Prize. She served as a law clerk to Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the DC Circuit and Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court. Barkow was an associate at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington, DC, before joining the NYU Law faculty.
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.
He is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in NY State and conducts research in AIDS, drug policy, prisons and criminal justice policies, and is active in global public health and human rights efforts in the US and abroad.
For 25 years Dr. Drucker was Director of Public Health and Policy Research at Montefiore/Einstein, founding Director of Montefiore's 1000 patient drug treatment program; an NIH funded principal investigator since 1991 and author of over 120 peer reviewed scientific articles, texts, and book chapters. He was founding Associate Editor of The International Journal of Drug Policy ( 1991 -2000) ; founder and Editor in Chief of Addiction Research and Theory ( 1993- 2005); and founding Editor in Chief of Harm Reduction Journal ( 2005 – 2014) . Dr. Drucker was a founder (in 1994) and Honored Life member of the International Harm Reduction Association; founding Board Chairman of Doctors of the World / USA – the American branch of the French medical humanitarian group, Medicins du Monde (1993-1997). And is Chair of Foundation for Common Sense Drug Policy. He has been a Soros Senior Justice Fellow of the Open Society Foundations, since 2007 , and is a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Global Health. He is author of A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America (2011, The New Press ) and is currently Editor of a new anthology : Decarcerating America: From Mass Punishment to Public Health, to be published by the New Press in 2017.
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.
His dissertation, “The Invisible Epidemic in Social Work Academia,” examined the complex phenomena of mass incarceration through a historical and contemporary lens. He concluded by developing curricula for Master level students to increase awareness, activism and holistic practice in the milieu. Courses developed from his dissertation have been implemented at Columbia University, Temple University, City College, and the University of Pennsylvania amongst others.
Dr. James’s primary research and publications focus on deconstructing issues of mass incarceration –– specifically as it pertains to trauma, cognitive development, culpability, and the examination of systems that foster and perpetuate racial injustice. He also works collaboratively with the Center For Justice at Columbia University on its annual “Beyond The Bars” conference –– which brings impacted people together with academics, activists, policy makers, and practitioners from across the country to create a more informed understanding, and subsequent response to mass incarceration.
Dr. James has over a decade of leadership experience in various social justice settings, and is a highly sought out speaker and human rights advocate. He has been a consultant on social justice projects from the Caribbean to Africa. At the University of Pennsylvania, he developed and directed the Goldring Reentry Initiative (GRI). The primary goals of the GRI are to identify best practices in reducing recidivism for individuals transitioning from Philadelphia jails, and to train clinical and macro level social work students to work with incarcerated individuals (pre and post release).
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.
Most recently, from 2014 to the conclusion of the Obama Administration, Bosworth served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President, where he was the Deputy Counsel overseeing all domestic policy legal issues. Immediately before joining the White House, he worked as Special Counsel to FBI Director James B. Comey, Jr. Prior to that, he worked for nearly seven years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, serving at various times as Co-Chief of the Complex Frauds Unit and Deputy Chief of the Public Corruption Unit. Bosworth also served as a law clerk to three federal judges: Justice Stephen G. Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the Second Circuit, and Judge Jed S. Rakoff in the Southern District of New York. He is a graduate of Princeton University (A.B. 2000), where he won the M. Taylor Pyne Honor Prize (Princeton's highest undergraduate honor), and he is a graduate of Yale Law School, where he served as Comments Editor of the Yale Law Journal. Among other honors, Bosworth has been named one of Washington D.C.'s Rising Stars by the National Law Journal, as well as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association; he has been included in Out Magazine's Out100 list of influential members of the LGBT community; and he has received awards including the J. Michael Bradford Award from the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys and the Prosecutor of the Year Award from the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation.
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Marc Levin, Mark Benjamin
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
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.