Formerly Incarcerated Leaders Host Historic Presidential Town Hall

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Oct 28, 2019

On Monday (October 28), for the first time in American history, formerly incarcerated people are moderating a presidential town hall. The 2020 Democratic candidates will talk about their positions on mass incarceration and racial bias in policing, The Marshall Project announced. Justice Votes 2020 Town Hall is being held at the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site in Philadelphia, a former prison.

Developed in collaboration with Voters Organized to Educate, the day-long event is being livestreamed.  It will include Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and philanthropist Tom Steyer, who will speak with people directly impacted by the criminal justice system and answer questions from formerly incarcerated people who have become civic leaders. According to The Marshall Project, “today’s town hall is the only forum to date that allows people most directly affected by the criminal justice system to highlight issues they believe are the most pressing.”

“This historic town hall marks an important step toward centering the voices of those directly impacted by mass incarceration, and in recognizing us as citizens with an equal stake in our political system,” said  Lawrence Bartley, director of News Inside, who regained his voting rights after being released on parole. “In 2018, a friend asked if my parole officer had informed me of my right to vote. When I responded that she had not, he made a call on my behalf. Hours later, someone from the parole office came to The Marshall Project’s office building and delivered a pardon signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo that temporarily restored my right to vote. I was elated and felt like I had taken another step toward complete freedom.”

“Those of us who have organized this forum have all been directly impacted by mass incarceration, and intimately know the harm that it causes,” said Reverend Vivian Nixon, a member of the Voters Organized advisory board. “We are excited to host this historic forum, in which we will have the chance to draw from our personal experiences to think forward with the candidates about how to move the country ever closer to being a fair and just society.”

To see where the current presidential candidates stand on criminal justice reform, check out The Marshall Project’s interactive info map, here

Watch the livestream below, courtesy of NowThis News: