Past Criminal Justice Related Activities: 

Susan Burton Campaign for CNN Hero:

Susan Burton,  founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, is one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes for 2010. Burton’s life speaks volumes to both the tragedy of punitive approaches to drug addition and to the ability of the human spirit to transcend lifes’ circumstances to become a beacon of hope for others. AAPF helped to initiate a campaign to get Susan Burton chosen as a CNN Hero.

The Kemba Smith Retreat (Spring 2000):

As a follow up to our well-attended panel discussion on Kemba Smith, we undertook a more active role in developing a public education campaign to highlight the injustice of contemporary drug policy through publicizing Smith’s case. We brought together a team of experts over a two-day period to establish the parameters for a campaign to create awareness about Kemba’s case. The campaign supports a petition for Kemba’s clemency and more broadly it facilitates the rethinking of current drug policy. Participants included Gus and Odessa Smith, Catherine Powell, Beth Richie, George Kendall, Steven Hawkins and others representing the domestic violence, criminal justice and media communities. Subsequently, the Kemba Smith Youth Foundation received a generous grant from the Soros Foundation to pursue the activities outlined at the retreat.

Race & the Criminal (In)justice System; A Policy Forum Conference on Proactive Resistance (Spring 2000):

Growing out of a Columbia Law School seminar on Race & Criminal Law taught by Kimberle Crenshaw, this conference was composed of workshops in which presenters provided critical information detailing the institutional, legal and cultural dynamics that shape racially disproportionate outcomes in policing and punishment. Through guided discussion and activities, participants were invited to help outline targeted efforts to respond to these problems. Given the verdict in the Amadou Diallo shooting, the shooting of unarmed Patrick Dorismond, and the Ramparts scandal in Los Angeles, this conference was timely and crucial (See Supplemental Book III). With an audience composed largely of lay persons and activists, discussions in the workshops were vibrant and focused. The conference concluded with a well-attended roundtable discussion featuring commentators and activists including Peter Neufeld, Steven Hawkins, Constance Rice, Van Jones and Jeffrey Fagan. The conference proceedings were broadcast on national public radio over a two-day period. A reception/book signing for Actual Innocence, by Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck and Jim Dyer brought the conference to an end

The Downward Push on Upward Mobility: Assaults on Educational Opportunity (March 26, 2000):

This salon grew out of common themes which emerged from earlier salons on the politics of welfare reform, the growth of the prison industrial complex, and the changing role of the state. In a post-industrial society where education is critical for finding work, opportunities for those at the economic, gendered and racialized margins are being stifled at every stage. From basic public education rights, to access to college and graduate school, poor women and children and people of color more broadly are confronting a weighty downward push on their upward mobility. This salon explored how the rhetoric and effects of anti-affirmative action, anti-public education and anti-welfare rights policies have been strengthened by their interconnections, and asked how activists can coordinate their resistance to these political assaults.

Kemba Smith: Caught in the Crossfire of Domestic Violence and U.S. Drug Policy (November 23, 1999):

The Policy Forum invited the general public to a panel discussion about Kemba Smith, an African American college student and mother sentenced to a 23-year prison term growing out of her marginal involvement in her boyfriend’s drug enterprise (See Supplemental Book III). Although Kemba never sold nor in any other way handled drugs, and there was ample evidence that Kemba was beaten and in fear of her life, none of this evidence was considered in Kemba’s sentencing. On site to discuss the case were Kemba’s parents, Gus and Odessa Smith, and one of Kemba’s lawyers, Catherine Powell of the Human Rights Institute. Kemba’s case not only highlighted the injustices of mandatory minimum sentences and the human toll of the war on drugs, it also brought to light the under appreciated effects of drug policies on women of color and their families. Although Black and Latino women represent the fastest growing group of incarcerated individuals, discussions about the prison crisis have rarely focused on the particular conditions and consequences of this crisis for these women. Kemba Smith’s case gave participants a deeper understanding of the tragic consequences of current drug policy with a particular emphasis on its intersectional dynamics.

Prisons (February 1998):

Laura Flanders moderated a salon which included law professor Kimberle Crenshaw, Attorney Catherine Powell and Sociologist Beth Richie, author of Compelled to Crime. The topic was the growth of the penal industry which serves as an economic resource for communities with a depressed economy while disproportionately incarcerating poor people and people of color. Because of this dynamic, the fastest growing population in prison are poor Black women. One of the complex factors discussed as part of this phenomenon was the reality that women often get caught up in the criminal justice system due to the domestic violence which they experience in relationships with men who involve them in illegal activities, including the drug trade, prostitution and theft.

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