Actor Michael K. Williams to Join Leading Organizations, Advocates, and Formerly Incarcerated Individuals in Discussions on the Criminal Justice System and Need for Reforms

May 5, 2017

NEW YORKThe American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign for Smart Justice — an unprecedented, nationwide, multi-year effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent and to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system — and the New York Civil Liberties Union today announced a new event, “FORWARD Justice: Real Talk on Changing Our Criminal Justice System,” to be held on May 17 in Brooklyn, New York.

The organizations will convene prominent thought-leaders, grassroots advocates, formerly incarcerated people, journalists, artists, musicians, and other cultural influencers from the music and art worlds for a series of conversations on the state of the nation’s criminal justice system and how to recharge the movement for reform.

“With an intense spotlight on ending America’s addiction to mass incarceration, people throughout the country are responding, from hitting the streets to taking to the steps of state capitols, to demand answers and changes to the status quo,” said Udi Ofer, director of the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice. “The current administration has already taken significant steps backward, attempting to reinstate the ineffective policies that got us where we are today — stuck with a system that is warehousing millions of people every day, disproportionately Black and brown people, while ripping families apart and devastating communities. Now more than ever, we must keep the conversations going, and equip all people across the country with the information and tools they need to keep pushing this criminal justice reform movement forward.”

“For decades, draconian criminal justice policies have been anything but just. Instead, they have caused enormous pain, tragedy, and injustice for people of color in America,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “But the decline of stop-and-frisk and the promise to close Rikers in New York City remind us that change is possible. This is a critical political moment for advocates, communities, and cultural leaders to join forces to build the momentum, creativity, and commitment needed to make reform reality.”

As a part of the program, Michael K. Williams, actor and ambassador for the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, will participate in a one-on-one, in-depth conversation on a variety of issues plaguing our criminal justice system.

“We’ve been too focused for too long on simply discussing the deeply rooted problems of our criminal justice system that have impacted so many lives, without giving enough attention to talking about the solutions to this broken system,” said Michael K. Williams, actor and ambassador for ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice. “It should no longer be a surprise to anyone that this system is broken and failing our communities, because it’s been growing and metamorphosing into this current state for centuries. But now we say that accepting that fact isn’t good enough. The system has to change, and it is on all of us to become the activists to fix it.”

The program will feature a number of conversations featuring experts and thought-leaders like Melissa Harris-Perry, journalists like Touré, as well as advocates like Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change; Glenn Martin, president of JustLeadershipUSA; and Monifa Bandele, vice president of MomsRising. The event will also include a discussion on the impact of juvenile life sentences with the family members of the incarcerated.

The event will take place on Wednesday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum. It will be streamed live in collaboration with VICE, and is officially supported by Color of Change, JustLeadershipUSA, and Communities United for Police Reform.

More information on the event can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1451142274956363/

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