Justice in America Podcast Co-Hosts Shout Out Criminal Justice Reformers

By Sameer Rao Jan 16, 2019

The first season of the Justice in America podcast explored the factors, from the cash bail system to immigration laws, that define the criminal justice system’s violence toward working-class communities of color. The second season, which premieres today (January 16), promises to address related topics including juvenile criminalization and the relationship between judicial elections and mass incarceration.

Colorlines posed the following question to co-hosts Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith III: What activists or organizing groups do you think are doing the most interesting work around criminal justice for communities of color in 2019?

"It’s a hard question only because there are countless people doing incredible work around criminal justice," they said in a joint email statement. "National organizations like Color of Change, The Movement for Black Lives, Advancement Project and People’s Action have been at the forefront of a lot of this work. In the cities where there have been major electoral or policy change, much of the momentum has come from more local groups on the ground, like the Texas Organizing Project, Southerners on New Ground, VOTE in Louisiana and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. The work of people like Tarsha Jackson, Norris Henderson, Mary Hooks, Rashad Robinson and Desmond Meade is resulting in real tangible change. They’re people with vision, too—they think big and fight hard."

They went on to highlight additional individuals and groups working on criminal justice reform around the country.

"Essie Justice Group, in California, is one of the most amazing organizations. We featured Gina Clayton-Johnson, the executive director, on an episode last season. Essie’s dedication to supporting women with incarcerated loved ones and providing them with community and resources is so critical. And by demanding that these women are heard by elected officials, Essie is also building crucial power. [I’m] always inspired by Gina and her work," Duffy Rice wrote. “Another person I am in constant awe of is Marbre Stahly-Butts, who is one of the most brilliant, innovative, passionate thinkers around true criminal justice reform that I have ever met. I am so grateful for both her heart and her mind."

"Organizations like the Bard Prison Initiative and the Free Minds Book Club do incredible work to provide opportunity, education and access to those incarcerated," Smith added. "Civil Rights Corps‘ bail litigation is challenging bail practices around the country and winning. In Alabama, the Equal Justice Initiative has been an invaluable organization, especially for children facing life sentences and people on death row. The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth is also doing important work around juvenile justice."

Listen to the season premiere of Justice in America, in which the hosts discuss the role of public defenders in fighting mass incarceration and speak with Gideon’s Promise leader Jonathan Rapping: