May 6, 2015

Criminal Justice Advocate Wins ACS’s David Carliner Public Interest Award

Daryl Atkinson, David Carliner Public Interest Award, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Mass Incarceration, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Zachary Norris







Zachary Norris of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Works to End Mass Incarceration



Nanya Springer, Assistant Director of Communications,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Zachary Norris, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, will be awarded the American Constitution Society’s (ACS) David Carliner Public Interest Award at the 2015 ACS National Convention.  Norris will be the first attorney-organizer to win the Carliner award.

The award is given annually to a mid-career public interest lawyer and will be presented to Norris at the Convention’s June 11 Gala Dinner. The award honors an attorney whose work best exemplifies David Carliner’s legacy of fearless, uncompromising and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people. Carliner, who began as an activist organizing against poll taxes, militarism and white supremacy in 1930s and 40s Virginia, became a pioneering immigration attorney who served as the founding chair of the American Civil Liberties Union–National Capital Area and Global Rights. The award includes a prize of $10,000 for Norris and $2,500 for the Ella Baker Center. Daryl Atkinson of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice was named a finalist for his advocacy efforts on behalf of formerly incarcerated people and will receive $2,500.

Zachary Norris has been committed to ending mass incarceration for the duration of his career. After initially joining the Ella Baker Center as an intern, he returned in 2013 to direct the Center’s policy advocacy efforts. Norris’s accomplishments with the Center include winning a jobs-not-jails budget campaign in Alameda County, Calif., that redirected $3 million from traditional criminal justice funding to community investment programs; helping to lead the successful campaign against California’s Proposition 6, a 2008 bill that would have imposed harsher criminal sentences on thousands of youths and adults, costing billions of dollars; and launching a national research project on the economic impacts of mass incarceration on families. Current efforts include campaigns to curb juvenile solitary confinement, reduce prison telephone costs for families of the incarcerated, and eliminate sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine offenses. Lenore Anderson, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, says that Norris “brought innovation, creativity, and an ability to think outside the box” to his work at the Ella Baker Center.

In addition to his work with the Ella Baker Center, Norris founded and co-directs Justice for Families, a national alliance of parents and families of court-involved youth who work to end the youth incarceration epidemic. With Justice for Families, Norris released a report documenting the impact of juvenile incarceration on families that gained local and international press attention and resulted in high-level meetings with U.S. Department of Justice officials, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The judges for this year’s David Carliner Public Interest Award were Nan Aron, Executive Director, Alliance for Justice; Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Daniel P. S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History, Harvard University; Thomas Buergenthal, Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence, George Washington University Law School, and former Judge of the International Court of Justice; William Fletcher, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Deborah Carliner, President, American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital; and Jacob Remes, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and History, SUNY Empire State College.

The past recipients of the David Carliner Public Interest Award are: Peter J. Wagner, Prison Policy Initiative; Kara Hartzler, Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.; Janson Wu, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD); Tim Freilich, Immigrant Advocacy Program, Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Va.; Cathleen Caron, Global Workers Justice Alliance; and Dori Rose Inda, Watsonville Law Center, Watsonville, Calif.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS), founded in 2001 and one of the nation's leading progressive legal organizations, is a rapidly growing network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals. For more information about the organization or to locate one of the more than 200 lawyer and law student chapters in 48 states, please visit