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2012 National Conference: Afternoon Plenary and Town Hall

Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and Mass Incarceration – the New American Jim Crow

A Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime and a Latino boy a 1 in 6 chance of the same fate. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world: 7.1 million adult residents—1 in 33—are under some form of correctional supervision including prison, jail, probation or parole. Michelle Alexander writes in her bestselling book that there are more adult African Americans under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. In 2011, our state and federal prison population exceeded that of all European nations combined. This epidemic of mass incarceration has created one of the most dangerous crises for the Black community since slavery and affects everyone in our nation. Black males have an imprisonment rate nearly seven times higher than White males; and Hispanic males have an imprisonment rate over twice that of White males.

Mass incarceration is tearing fathers and mothers from children, and economically and politically disempowering millions by taking away the right to vote and ability to get a job and public benefits in some states after prison terms are served. One in 9 Black, 1 in 28 Hispanic and 1 in 57 White children have an incarcerated parent.

Annual state spending on corrections tops $51 billion and states spend on average two and a half times more per prisoner than per public school pupil. Federal spending on prisons totaled $6.6 billion in FY 2012. An added danger driving mass incarceration is the privatization of prisons for profit. The Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison corporation, has proposed to 48 state governors to operate their prison systems for 20 years with a guaranteed 90 percent occupancy rate. The toxic cocktail of poverty, racial disparities in child serving systems, poor education, zero tolerance school discipline policies, racial profiling, unbridled prosecutorial discretion, and racial disparities in arrests and sentencing are funneling millions of poor people of color into dead end, powerless and hopeless lives.

This panel will share their thoughtful research and experience about how to better ensure public safety through prevention and early intervention; fairer school discipline and law enforcement policies; examine mass incarceration as a continuing method of racial control and discrimination; and recommend measures to replace the Cradle to School to Prison PipelineTM with one to college and productive work.

Moderator:

  • Charles Ogletree, Jesse Climenko Professor at Harvard Law School; Founder and Executive Director, Harvard’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice

Speakers:

  • Michelle Alexander – Legal scholar and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness
  • The Hon. Patricia Martin – Presiding Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois Child Protection Division; President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
  • The Hon. Michael A. Nutter – Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and President, U.S. Conference of Mayors
  • Bryan Stevenson – Executive Director, Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, AL This panel will feed into an interactive town hall discussion with additional leaders and respondents including:
    • The Rev. Janet Wolf – National Program Coordinator and Director of Nonviolent Organizing to End the Cradle to Prison Pipeline, CDF Haley Farm
    • Ndume Olatushani, formerly incarcerated prisoner for almost 28 years; 19 years on death row
    • Preston Shipp, former prosecutor in Nashville, Tenn. and currently Disciplinary Counsel at the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tenn.

 

Michelle Alexander, legal scholar and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, doesn’t want to see prison reform. She wants to dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and end mass incarceration. Alexander lays out the case that new Jim Crow laws have emerged from the country’s anxiety over race. Rather than creating jobs and declaring a war on poverty, she provides evidence that the war on drugs was the nation’s response to a wave of joblessness in segregated communities. Alexander told 3,000 advocates for justice at the “Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and Mass Incarceration” plenary session at CDF's 2012 National Conference, Black men have been swept into the prison system and trapped for life. When they get out of prison, new Jim Crow-style barriers prevent them from voting, living in public housing, getting jobs and disenfranchise a whole segment of the population. Alexander argues that the war on drugs has become a war on poor people--especially poor people of color. It’s time to build a movement from the bottom up to end the war on drugs that feeds the prison industrial complex. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Michelle Alexander is a civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar who currently holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. Prior to joining the Kirwan Institute, Alexander was an associate professor of law at Stanford Law School, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinics. In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of her first book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010). For several years, Alexander served as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. While an associate at Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak and Baller, she specialized in plaintiff-side class action lawsuits alleging race and gender discrimination. Alexander studied at Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University.


 

America is a different country than it was 40 years ago—in 1972, there were 300,000 people in prison. Today, 2.3 million people are in prison and another 6 million under control of the criminal justice system, on probation or parole. Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. He told 3,000 attendees at the “Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and Mass Incarceration” session of CDF’s 2012 National Conference that fear is what fuels the war on crime, and it has to stop now. “The justice system does better for the rich and guilty,” says Stevenson, “than the poor and innocent.” The poor and vulnerable become permanent second-class citizens unless we advocate for justice now on their behalf, and Stevenson has a plan. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. EJI has recently succeeded in winning a ban on life imprisonment without parole sentences imposed on children convicted of most crimes in the U.S. and has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts. He is also a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law. Stevenson’s work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards including the American Bar Association Wisdom Award for Public Service, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award Prize, and the NAACP Ming Award for Advocacy. He studied at the Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


 

Michael Nutter is the mayor of Philadelphia and a leading voice in “Mayors Against Illegal Guns,” a coalition of 700 mayors to get guns out of the hands of children and off of the streets. Nutter told the 3,000 people gathered at the “Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and Mass Incarceration” session of CDF’s 2012 National Conference that arresting and jailing young people is not how to stop crime. Like so many American cities, Philadelphia is challenged by poverty and violence. People are paying attention to the crime rates, but not the rate of high-school graduation—it is a struggle to find the resources to invest in the youth. Nutter is ready with a plan we can use today to invest in our young people, not just in policing. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Hon. Michael A. Nutter is the second term mayor of Philadelphia and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Nutter has set an aggressive agenda for America’s fifth largest city – devising the city’s innovative school reform strategy, vowing to strengthen community policing through Philly Rising, a unique partnership between vulnerable neighborhoods and the city, and continuing to implement the nationally recognized GreenWorks Philadelphia initiative that is helping to make Philadelphia become the greenest city in America. Since taking office in January, 2008, Nutter has vigorously managed city government through the worst recession since the Great Depression by maintaining core services and reducing the city’s spending – most notably closing a $2.4 billion gap in Philadelphia’s five year plan without compromising a single police officer, fire fighter, sanitation, or health center worker. Born in Philadelphia and educated at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Nutter has been committed to public service since his youth in West Philadelphia. He served almost 15 years on the Philadelphia City Council, earning the reputation of a reformer, before his election as mayor. He is happily married to his wife Lisa, and a proud parent to Christian and Olivia.


 

The Hon. Patricia Martin, president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, sees bias in the court and works every day to weed it out. Here, Martin talks about one case involving two boys from different families, similar backgrounds, who had different legal representation and almost received different sentencing. Educating judges on implicit bias is key to stopping mass incarceration—changing the laws is not enough. Martin wants to dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ from the inside out, and she shared her story with 3,000 people gathered at the “Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and Mass Incarceration” session of CDF’s 2012 National Conference. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Hon. Patricia Martin is the presiding judge of the Child Protection Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill. Martin’s expertise in child welfare matters has received national and international attention. She is also the president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and a member and past chair of the Supreme Court of Illinois Judicial Conference Study Committee on child custody issues. Judge Martin studied at Northern Illinois University and Middlebury College as well as the University of Nairobi in Kenya.


 

Preston Shipp, former prosecutor in Nashville, Tenn., says he was part of the problem. Here, he tells the story of prosecuting a young woman based on her profile on paper. Later, he got to know the person behind the crime. Shipp told 3,000 advocates for justice at the “Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline” session at CDF's 2012 National Conference that he feels he made a mistake prosecuting her in the first place. All he had known about her was the worst thing she’d ever done (He got to know her and realized now that he can be part of a change in the courts—legal judgment should not ignore the human element.). Transformative and restorative justice are concepts that revolutionize the judicial system, but only if we fight for them. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Preston Shipp is currently Disciplinary Counsel at the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee. Prior to joining the Board, Shipp served as an appellate prosecutor in the Tennessee Attorney General’s office from 2004 until 2008. Before working as an assistant attorney general, Shipp clerked for two years for the Honorable Judge David H. Welles on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Shipp studied at the University of Tennessee College of Law and Lipscomb University.


 

The faith community isn’t doing enough to aid the cause of justice in the prison system, says the Rev. Janet Wolf, national program coordinator and director of nonviolent organizing to End the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ for the CDF. In many ways, she asserts, it has been complicit in the injustice. Wolf says the faith community has cast out offenders instead of taking the corrupt judicial system to task—the same prison system that profits from the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and brands ex-offenders as “unclean.” Rev. Wolf told the crowd gathered at the “Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and Mass Incarceration” session at CDF's 2012 National Conference that the faith community needs to shift from charity to justice to help God repair the world. Wolf’s mini-sermon fired up a crowd already primed for action. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Rev. Janet Wolf is the National Coordinator for Children’s Defense Fund Haley Farm Programs and Nonviolent Direct Action Organizing to Dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. She is also faculty chair and professor at American Baptist College in Nashville, a historically Black college and home to many of the national civil rights leaders. For the United Methodist Church, Rev. Wolf served as pastor of rural and urban congregations for 12 years. As director of public policy and community outreach with Religious Leaders for a More Just and Compassionate Drug Policy, she worked with national interfaith coalition on harm reduction, alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice. She is the author of “To See and To Be Seen,” a chapter in I Was In Prison: United Methodist Perspectives on Prison Ministry. For 12 years, she also served as a community organizer around poverty rights. Rev. Wolf graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School.


 

Ndume Olatushani was incarcerated for 28 years, 20 of which were spent on death row, for a crime he says he didn’t commit. He was convicted by an all-White jury in a town that was mostly Black and says police and prosecutors falsified evidence against him. He gives the 3,000 people at the “Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and Mass Incarceration” session at CDF's 2012 National Conference a view from inside the belly of the beast. This is just a clip -- the full panel and entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ndume Olatushani is an artist, organizer, and passionate advocate for justice. Olatushani was wrongly convicted of felony murder by an all white jury in Memphis, Tennessee, and served almost 28 years in prison, 20 of those on death row, before finally having his conviction overturned. He was released on June 1, 2012. His case provides a stark example of the sort of police corruption, prosecutorial misconduct, and structural racism that continue to infect our criminal justice system. Olatushani received his GED while on death row, obtained his paralegal certificate through a correspondence course, and has been a student in graduate theology classes offered at the prison. He is a thoughtful, reflective speaker who advocates reconciliation and aggressive efforts to dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and welcome home those who have been incarcereated. Olatushani was recently married to Anne-Marie Moyes, who worked with him for twenty years to prove his innocence.


 

This portion of the panel discussion for the “Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ and Mass Incarceration” plenary session at CDF's 2012 National Conference motivate the audience of 3,000 by making action plans for a movement to dismantle the pipeline, take guns off the streets and end mass incarceration. This is an instructive tool to build your action plans around. This is just a clip -- the full panel with the entire session is available for purchase and could be used as an instructive tool to build an action plan around, or buy a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Panelists

Charles Ogletree, the Harvard Law School Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, and Founder and Executive Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, is a prominent legal theorist who has made an international reputation by taking a hard look at complex issues of law and by working to secure the rights guaranteed by the Constitution for everyone equally under the law. Ogletree opened the offices of The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice in September 2005 as a tribute to the legendary civil rights lawyer and mentor and teacher of such great civil rights lawyers as Thurgood Marshall and Oliver Hill. The Institute has engaged in a wide range of important educational, legal, and policy issues over the past six years. Ogletree is the author of several important books on race and justice. His most recent publication is a book co-edited with Professor Austin Sarat of Amherst College entitled Life without Parole: America’s New Death Penalty? (2012). Other publications include The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Race, Class, and Crime in America (2010).