Rev. Heber Brown among speakers on Bringing Criminal Justice Reform to Our Communities Panel

Toward a More Perfect Union: Bringing Criminal Justice Reform to Our Communities

About This Event

The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration, with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails. Mass incarceration and overcriminalization have particularly affected communities of color, which make up more than 60 percent of the population behind bars. And nationally, 70 million and 100 million—or one in three Americans—now have a criminal record, which can serve as a barrier to many of the basic building blocks of economic security and mobility, such as employment and housing. These trends have become major drivers of poverty; if not for mass incarceration and the criminal records that can haunt people for decades thereafter, our nation’s poverty rate would have dropped by one-fifth between 1980 and 2004. Recent events in cities across the nation have highlighted the lack of opportunity, inequities, and challenges confronting many of our communities, raised serious questions about police practices, and helped fuel the need for comprehensive criminal justice reform.

Please join the Center for American Progress and PICO National Network for a discussion of how we can begin to reverse the trend of overcriminalization of people of color and address its lasting consequences, including reforming policing practices and removing barriers to opportunity for people with criminal records.

Welcoming remarks:
Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President for External Affairs, Center for American ProgressOpening remarks:
Pastor Michael McBride, Director of Urban Strategies and LIVE FREE Campaign, PICO National NetworkFeatured presenter:
Heather Ann Thompson, Professor of History, University of Michigan

Featured panelists:
Reverend Heber Brown III, Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, North Baltimore
Judith M. Conti, Federal Advocacy Coordinator, National Employment Law Project
Ronald L. Davis, Director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice
Pastor Darren A. Ferguson, Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Arverne (Far Rockaway), NY
Alicia Garza, Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter

Moderated by:
Todd A. Cox, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

Coffee will be served at 9:00 a.m.

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Location

Center for American Progress
1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20005

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Nearest Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Red Line to Metro Center

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Pastor Gabriel Churn of West Baltimore's Union Temple Congregation leads his congregation in a prayer for peace in their neighborhood during a sunset prayer service on the sidewalk in front of their church near the scene of recent rioting over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland April 28, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Bourg - RTX1AQKC
 
The Baltimore riots have led to something previously unseen in the post-Ferguson civil rights movement: the almost immediate formation of an organized coalition of activists, with black churches at its foundation.

A new grassroots group called Baltimore United for Change has been formed as a result of the current strife in Baltimore. The coalition includes student groups, established nonprofits like Casa De Maryland and several local churches, which are serving as safe harbors during times of unrest. Jamye Wooten, one of the group’s lead organizers, also spent time working with faith communities in Ferguson Action.

“We see churches across the country coming together,” says Wooten. “The black church has an essential role to play in the empowerment of our communities.”

Many of the organizations from Baltimore’s new coalition have been working together on local issues for years, but when tensions rose last Sunday, new groups joined their network. Within days they had a new website and a framework for organized cooperation. This week they held community dialogues and launched a crowd funding campaign for the legal fees of arrested protesters, which has raised over $44,000 so far.

“We needed to centralize information, organize our efforts and foster long-term commitment,” says Wooten. The Baltimore coalition quickly built an online network for an interfaith, multi-racial movement to change the criminal justice system.

The group’s first goal is to change the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBoR), which gives police a 10-day window before they are compelled to speak when being investigated for misconduct.  “We are working to build capacity that goes beyond reaction,” says Wooten, “not jump from flash point to flash point, but to cooperate together for sustainable change.”

Baltimore United for Change