Pages Navigation Menu

Journal for Civil Rights and Economic Development Hosts Criminal Justice Symposium

The Journal for Civil Rights and Economic Development (JCRED) recently hosted a symposium on “Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: The Challenge to Protect Individual Freedoms, Civil Rights, and Our Safety.” The day included timely, impassioned discussions of cutting edge issues in the criminal justice system. “I couldn’t be more impressed with the panelists,” said Symposium Editor Jordan Hummel ’13, who helped produce the event. “Their presentations raised insightful questions and challenged me to think about these compelling issues in a novel way. The entire day was truly thought-provoking.”

The first panel, “Prisons, Reforms and Rehabilitation,” presented issues facing prisons from the privatization of the prison system generally to specific consequences for prisoners from the high cost of phone calls to disenfranchisement upon their release. The next panel, “Juveniles and Criminal Law,” surveyed the unique challenges juveniles face within the criminal justice system and posited solutions to remedy these inequalities. The first roundtable discussion of the day, “Racial Profiling, Police Accountability and Individual Rights,” featured Juan Cartagena, President of Latino Justice/PRLDEF, and Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Their discussion highlighted contemporary controversies like the NYPD stop-and-frisk policies and stand-your-ground laws in other states. “The morning agenda set the positive tone for this unique and significant event,” said Professor Leonard M. Baynes, who facilitated the symposium as Director of The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development (The RHB Center) and faculty advisor to JCRED. “The RHB Center is committed to providing an open forum for examining vital issues of social justice, and this symposium honors that commitment and moves this important dialogue forward.”

The afternoon program began with Dean Michael A. Simons moderating a colloquy between United States District Court Judges Harold Baer, Jr. of the Southern District New York, and Sterling Johnson, Jr. of the Eastern District of New York. The esteemed jurists reflected on their experiences on the bench, and with sentencing in particular. A second roundtable discussion followed, featuring Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. and Craig Levine, Senior Counsel and Policy Director at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. The discussants addressed the highly publicized and debated topic of “Gun Safety,” reconciling tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting and New York’s recent firearm legislation, and predicting potential challenges for implementation and more effective solutions. The final panel, “Technology and Criminal Law,” looked to the future of the criminal justice system as panelists debated government regulation of citizens’ privacy rights with the emergence of new technologies, such as GPS devices and drones.

“Criminal justice reform is one of the most critical legal, social, and policy issues of our time, said Professor Janai S. Nelson, who helped organize the symposium as Associate Director of The RHB Center and faculty advisor to JCRED. “This symposium provided an in depth exploration of compelling questions in criminal law and will continue to inform the discussion in this area through its forthcoming published volume on the subject.”