Can We All Get Along? The question posed by Rodney King over a decade ago in the wake of the Los Angeles riots is still, unfortunately, at the top of the nation's agenda in the wake of the deaths of unarmed young man at the hands of police over the past year. It was the central question of the 2015 Harry Frank Guggenheim Conference on Crime in America, held at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Feb 9-10, 2015, which focused on “Race, Justice and Community.”
More than 40 practitioners and researchers joined 20 journalists from around the country and a wide public audience for the Symposium, which also marked the 10th anniversary of what has become one of the most prestigious events on the nation's criminal justice calendar—and a unique forum for exchange of views among journalists and the professional criminal justice community.
This year's symposium featured cameo presentations by Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte, Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, NYC Correction Chief Joe Ponte, and Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson (who delivered the keynote address on the second day). The opening panels were devoted to “Lessons” from the tragedies that resulted in the deaths of unarmed African American young men in Ferguson, Mo, Cleveland, Staten Island and elsewhere. Iris Roley of Cincinnati's Black United Front offered a roadmap for improving police engagement with troubled communities, based on the collaborative model she pioneered in Cincinnati. Commenting on her presentation and offering innovative approaches of their own were Forte of the Kansas City police, Prof. David Kennedy of John Jay College, who heads the National Network for Safe Communities; and Sam Walker of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The discussion was followed by a presentation of new research and criminal justice trends relating to policing by Prof. Karin Martin of John Jay College, Prof. Rick Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and Prof. Al Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon.
Other highlights of the conference included a conversation about the mental health challenges in the nation's jails including NYC's Ponte, Terri McDonald, Assistant Sheriff of Los Angeles County and Cara Smith of the Cook County Department of Correction. A blue-ribbon list of speakers focused on the prospects of sentencing reform at the state and federal levels, including former Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, Adam Gelb of the Pew Public Safety Performance Project (and sponsor of the panel), Anne Milgram, VP of Criminal Justice at the Arnold Foundation, and Michael Jacobson, former Vera director and now at CUNY.
The conference also explored the new NIJ-sponsored project looking at systemic criminal justice reform, called Mending Justice—sponsored by the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at Penn Law School; and the implications of the rise of the legal marijuana industry, moderated by Ricardo Baca of the Denver Post and the country's first “cannabis columnist.” Bill Sabol, director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, gave journalists a briefing on interpreting and access to crime statistics.
The conference also heard a presentation of the annual review of criminal justice news coverage in 2014 from Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists. His full report is also available HERE.
Watch Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson’s Keynote Address below, or to view it on YouTube HERE.
This page will be periodically updated with podcasts and relevant materials/research from the conference, along with articles produced by the Reporting Fellows, so please check back regularly!
And please watch for announcements on The Crime Report and the website of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice of the 2016 Symposium.