ACLU Comment on the Passing of Alvin J. Bronstein, Prisoners' Rights Champion

October 27, 2015 10:30 am

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Alvin J. Bronstein, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, died on Saturday afternoon. He was 87.

Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, had this comment:

The board of directors and staff of the American Civil Liberties Union mourn the passing of Alvin J. Bronstein, a true champion of civil rights and civil liberties.

Al founded the ACLU’s National Prison Project in 1972 at a time when prisoners had virtually no rights. Over the next quarter-century, his tireless efforts on behalf of prisoners led to major reforms in prison systems throughout the country. After his retirement from the ACLU, Al became part of a global movement for prison reform through his work with Penal Reform International.

From 1964-1968, Al was Chief Staff Counsel for the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee, which served as a legal arm to the civil rights movement. He represented Martin Luther King, Jr., among many others, during a critical period in this nation’s civil rights history. Al was beaten up for his efforts, but he never backed down.

Al was more than a great lawyer, he was a moral force. In 1989, he received a MacArthur “genius award” for his contributions to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice reform. On four different occasions, he was named one of the country’s 100 most influential lawyers by the National Law Journal.

A memorial will be held in Washington, D.C., at the Washington Ethical Society on Monday, January 18 (MLK, Jr. Day), from 2 – 4 p.m.

Al’s life and work were an inspiration to generations of public interest lawyers. He truly made a difference. Our deep sympathies go to Al’s wife, children, and everyone who was touched by this remarkable man. He will be missed.

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