Still Dreaming: Continuing the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement through Criminal Justice Reform

Date: 
March 13, 2012

ACS and Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted Still Dreaming: Continuing the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement through Criminal Justice Reform. In March, the nation will commemorate "Bloody Sunday" and the Selma to Montgomery marches of the Civil Rights Movement. This Movement represented a monumental shift in both the legal policies and social consciousness of America, and resulted in passage of landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. But almost half a century later, deep layers of oppression have yet to be uprooted, a reality that is starkly evident in our criminal justice system today. People of color are still disproportionately profiled, incarcerated, and sentenced to death at alarming rates, leaving Martin Luther King’s dream of full racial equality and freedom yet unfulfilled. These disparities have led many to believe that criminal justice reform should be the civil rights movement of the 21st Century. Are there in fact litigators, policy advocates, and academics who are devoting their professional lives to continuing the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement through criminal justice work? If Dr. King were alive, would he prioritize criminal justice reform? Do criminal justice experts consider mass incarceration the new Jim Crow? Will this generation of civil rights and criminal justice advocates eradicate racial disparities in the criminal justice system in their lifetime? A panel of criminal justice and civil rights experts will consider these and other questions.

Opening Remarks: Vanessa Cárdenas, Director, Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress

Introduction: Kanya Bennett, Director of Programs for Criminal and Civil Justice, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy

Panel Discussion will feature:

  • Moderator, Deborah Berry, Reporter, Gannett News Service
  • David Domenici, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
  • Aderson B. François, Associate Professor, Howard University School of Law
  • Christina Swarns, Director of the Criminal Justice Practice, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
  • Tracy Velázquez, Executive Director, Justice Policy Institute