Criminal Justice In America: 10 Takeaways
What should be done about America’s criminal justice system? On October 27, 2020, WNET held Criminal Justice In America: A WNET Virtual Summit. The gathering featured ten thought leaders from across cultures, cities, and sectors to discuss the top criminal justice issues affecting America today, and what can be done to change them. The summit focused on strategies and solidarity, with an understanding of history and eyes toward the future.
The conversation was filled with sharp, frank insights about the criminal justice system. Full recording, above.
Ten takeaways from the discussion:
- “The policy of immigrant family detention is pivoting onto Black people.” – Mike Ishii, Co-Chair, Tsuru for Solidarity
- “Incarceration isn’t something that just happens to one person, but to families and entire communities.” – Sylvia A. Harvey, investigative journalist; author, The Shadow System: Mass Incarceration and the American Family
- “Young people and children are the first to touch the criminal justice system.” – Jasmine Dellafosse, Senior Regional Organizer, Gathering for Justice
- “Data-based risk assessments provide a veneer of objectivity to cruel, highly subjective court judgments.” – Elisabeth Epps, JD, Founder, Colorado Freedom Fund
- “Police and prosecutors routinely mislabel and criminalize Black and Brown youth as gang members.” – Josmar Trujillo, Writer/Organizer, Policing & Social Justice Project
- “Transgender people are treated more negatively during traffic stops when their gender identification ID doesn’t indicate what an officer feels it should.” – Tori Cooper (She/Her), Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, Human Rights Campaign
- “Native Americans do not have a right to counsel as a matter of federal law.” – Barbara Creel (Pueblo of Jemez), Professor of Law, University of New Mexico
- “There is a crisis of mass policing and surveillance in care systems, when people are at their most vulnerable.” – Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
- “The family separations occurring as a result of the Muslim Ban have had a destructive impact on the safety of Muslim American communities.” – Aniqa Nawabi, Executive Director, Muslim Community Network
- “The entire scope of the criminal justice system and its impact on Native American communities has fallen under the radar.” – Mary Hudetz (Crow Tribe), Investigative Reporter, The Seattle Times
Criminal Justice In America has generated thousands of views on WNET’s social media platforms, and community response has been overwhelmingly positive.
To build on that success, we are now planning more public media summits on issues affecting New Yorkers and communities across the country. Stay tuned.
Tori Cooper (She/Her), Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, Human Rights Campaign
Barbara Creel (Pueblo of Jemez), Professor of Law, University of New Mexico
Jasmine Dellafosse, Senior Regional Organizer, Gathering for Justice
Elisabeth Epps, JD, Founder, Colorado Freedom Fund
Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
Sylvia A. Harvey, investigative journalist
Mary Hudetz (Crow Tribe), Investigative Reporter, The Seattle Times
Mike Ishii, Co-Chair, Tsuru for Solidarity
Aniqa Nawabi, Executive Director, Muslim Community Network
Josmar Trujillo, Writer/Organizer, Policing & Social Justice Project
Welcome remarks by Amanda Granger, Director of Community Engagement, The WNET Group. Moderated by Brian Tate, Community Partnerships Specialist, The WNET Group.
TORI COOPER (SHE/HER), DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT FOR THE TRANSGENDER JUSTICE INITIATIVE, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
Tori Cooper is a health and equity advocate, community organizer, educator, published author and leader in the transgender and HIV communities. She leads with more than 30 years of experience at all levels of HIV service, from volunteer roles to her service as executive director and founder of Advocates for Better Care Atlanta, LLC. She now serves as the Human Rights Campaign’s Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. In this role, her focus includes economic empowerment; capacity building programs; public safety; and expanded public education campaigns.
BARBARA CREEL (PUEBLO OF JEMEZ), PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO
Barbara Creel is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Jemez, and a tenured law professor at the UNM School of Law. The former director of the Southwest Indian Law Clinic, she currently directs an Indigenous Innocence and Justice Project at the Law School. Professor Creel teaches Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, Evidence, as well as seminar courses in Criminal Law in Indian Country and Native American Indian Civil Rights – courses of her own design and the first of the kind to be offered in the nation. She is a recognized expert in the right to counsel in Indian Country and a frequent speaker on equal justice for Native Americans in the criminal justice system.
JASMINE DELLAFOSSE, SENIOR REGIONAL ORGANIZER, GATHERING FOR JUSTICE
Jasmine Dellafose is the Senior Regional Organizer with Gathering for Justice, a social justice organization founded by Harry Belafonte in 2005 to build a movement to end child incarceration and the racial inequities that permeate the justice system. She leads statewide efforts in San Joaquin and Ventura to close youth prisons in California and ensure that youth, families, and CBOs have a seat at the table in reimagining alternatives to youth incarceration. Dellafose co-authored a restorative justice resolution that passed in the Stockton Unified School District in 2019 with a 6-0 vote. In 2018, Mayor Michael Tubbs awarded her the Key to the City of Stockton, CA.
ELISABETH EPPS, JD, FOUNDER, COLORADO FREEDOM FUND
Elisabeth Epps, JD, is an abolitionist, activist, and advocate. A former deputy state public defender, she serves as Founder/Convener of the Colorado Freedom Fund and Co-Lead of the Denver Justice Project. Both organizations are committed to freedom work and ending mass incarceration. Raised in America’s south by an activist mother, Elisabeth became a mother herself at age 16 and raised her son in the same activist tradition. For more than two decades she has been active in building political power and organizing around social justice, long before she knew the formal terms for the activity that would become her life’s work: helping our neighbors get free and stay free.
KASSANDRA FREDERIQUE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE
Kassandra Frederique is the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national nonprofit that works to end the war on drugs and build alternatives grounded in science, compassion, health, and human rights. Among other victories, she designed the campaign that cut the number of New York City marijuana arrests by more than 99% since 2010. Frederique is a powerful advocate for working with people who have been directly impacted by the war on drugs, and she has been instrumental in grounding the national conversation around reparative justice and restitution for communities harmed by the war on drugs.
SYLVIA A. HARVEY, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST
Sylvia A. Harvey is an award-winning journalist reporting on race, class, policy, and incarceration. She is the author of The Shadow System: Mass Incarceration and the American Family, an exposé of the effects of mass incarceration on families – including the 2.7 million American children who have a parent locked up. Harvey’s work has appeared in The Nation, Elle, Politico, Vox, and other media outlets. She is the recipient of a National Headliner Award and a National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Salute to Excellence award. The Oakland native holds a BA in sociology and an MS in journalism from Columbia University.
MARY HUDETZ (CROW TRIBE), INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE SEATTLE TIMES
Mary Hudetz is an investigative reporter for The Seattle Times. She previously worked for the Associated Press in Albuquerque, covering the criminal justice system and Native American affairs. Her work on the cases of missing and murdered indigenous women garnered several awards, including a Dori J. Maynard Award for Justice in Journalism from the News Leaders Association. An enrolled member of the Crow Tribe, Hudetz is a past president of the Native American Journalists Association.
MIKE ISHII, CO-CHAIR, TSURU FOR SOLIDARITY
Michael Ishii is a yonsei (4th-generation Japanese American) native of Seattle who lives in New York City. He has co-chaired the NYC Day of Remembrance for over 25 years and he co-founded/co-chairs Tsuru for Solidarity, a national project in the Japanese American community fighting to close detention sites used to imprison migrants and implement policies of family separation. Ishii is a founding member and co-chair of the New York Japanese American Oral History Project, and a former President of the JACL, NY Chapter. His spoken word pieces explore themes of healing, resistance, and the transformation of violence and intergenerational trauma.
ANIQA NAWABI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MUSLIM COMMUNITY NETWORK
Aniqa Nawabi joined as Muslim Community Network’s Executive Director in 2018. Since then, she has helped stabilize the organization and expand MCN’s programmatic footprint as a major Muslim interfaith and civic-associations in New York City and beyond. Founded in 2005 to advocate for the needs of Muslim Americans, MCN is steadfast in ensuring that Muslim Americans participate in intersectional organizing around issues important to all Americans, specifically in criminal justice reform and economic and gender equality. Nawabi is an immigrant from Bangladesh and has a decade’s long experience of working in the public sector.
JOSMAR TRUJILLO, WRITER/ORGANIZER, THE POLICING & SOCIAL JUSTICE PROJECT
Josmar Trujillo is a writer and organizer based in New York City. He has organized around education, disaster recovery and policing. He currently organizes with the Policing & Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. He has written for the Village Voice, NY Daily News, Newsday, Crain’s, Truth Out and SchoolBook. He has recurring columns at amNY and City Limits. He also blogs at the Huffington Post and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He lives in Spanish Harlem with his two sons.
Welcome Remarks: AMANDA GRANGER, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT, THE WNET GROUP
Amanda Granger is the Director of Community Engagement at The WNET Group where she manages national station initiatives for PBS series including American Masters, Nature, and Camp TV. Before starting at WNET, she was an actress at the Tony Award-winning Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and an English and Social Studies teacher in Houston, Texas. Amanda graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a B.A. in Global Studies, and has M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Technology, Innovation, and Education.
Moderator: BRIAN TATE, COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS SPECIALIST, THE WNET GROUP
Brian Tate is a cultural curator and marketing strategist who develops major public programs that examine revolutionary history and the issues of our time. He has built forward-looking projects at the nexus of culture and ideas for more than 20 years, and he is expert at convening fearless thinkers for discussions of ethics, politics, and the future. He is guided by the example of his parents, Charles and Florence Tate, brilliant civil rights activists who espoused selfless action to drive social change. He is the Community Partnerships Specialist for WNET, and the founder of Tate Strategy, a Brooklyn, NY-based consulting firm.