Race still matters in the U.S. criminal justice system despite Barack Obama’s election, says Harvard law prof. Charles Ogletree, a mentor to Obama and his wife at Harvard Law School. Ogletree, director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, cited racial slurs in this year’s presidential campaign as evidence that Obama’s victory has not solved the nation’s racial issues. Ogletree spoke to a MacArthur Foundation juvenile justice conference in suburban Washington, D.C. He is leading a campaign for youth crime prevention headlined “No More Children Left Behind Bars,” a play on the name of President Bush’s school reform program.
Ogletree complained of a “school to prison pipeline” that results from school administrators’ adopting “increasingly punitive” practices such as expelling students for relatively minor offenses, which often pushes them into the criminal-justice system. Also at the conference, the MacArthur Foundation announced that that California, Florida, Massachusetts, and New Jersey will get aid to strengthen their juvenile indigent defense systems. Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington already have received aid. The grants are part of a $120 million “Models for Change” initiative to reform juvenile justice.