March 30, 2021

Founding Failures: The Consequences of the Constitution’s Original Sin for Our Criminal Legal System

Since its inception, the U.S. Constitution has implicitly and explicitly approved of the institution of slavery and the racial caste system it necessitated. That legacy has deeply influenced how our nation's criminal legal system has operated to control and abuse Black bodies—as well as the bodies of other People of Color—and destabilize their communities through over-criminalization, over-policing, and over-incarceration. Racism is so endemic in our criminal legal system that even laws that should protect Black communities, such as those aimed at white supremacist terror, hate crimes, and gun violence, ultimately end up disproportionately enforced against the people in those communities. Join ACS for a discussion that explores these issues and considers how restorative justice and other less traditional approaches might offer a path toward maintaining public safety without further empowering a criminal legal system tainted by a legacy of institutional racism.

Introductory Remarks:

Russ Feingold, President, American Constitution Society


I. Bennett Capers, Professor of Law and Director of Center on Race, Law & Justice, Fordham University Law School

Seema Gajwani, Special Counsel for Juvenile Justice Reform and Chief of the Restorative Justice Program Section, District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General

Taja-Nia Henderson, Dean, Rutgers University Graduate School-Newark

Vincent Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights

Jamiles Lartey, Staff Writer, The Marshall Project, Moderator