National NAACP, criminal justice reform leaders to participate
The nation’s prisons are filled with people who violated probation or parole by visiting a loved one, attending a family barbecue or for picking up their children from daycare.
For recording artist Meek Mill, it was popping a wheelie that caused a judge to sentence him to up to four years in prison, sparking the popular #FreeMeek movement and docuseries on Amazon Prime by the same name.
Mill, who served five months before being released, has decided to use his power to take action for the millions more who are incarcerated for technical probation violations.
He, along with Michael Rubin, a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, Grammy award-winner Jay Z and Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, among other world-class philanthropists, founded Reform Alliance, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform probation and parole by changing laws and systems.
The group will hold a Criminal Justice Reform Day on the campus of Livingstone College on March 23, signaling the launch of its partnerships with historically black colleges and universities across the country. The all-day event will include breakfast with key stakeholders; lunch on the lawn with students, featuring recording artist 2KBaby; and a town hall meeting open to the public.
During lunch on the lawn, members of Reform Alliance and 2KBaby will interact with students and bring their attention to Reform’s efforts. Rooks; Louis Reed, senior director of membership and partnerships; Britton Smith, senior organizing strategist; and 2KBaby will also bring remarks.
Music, prizes, giveaways, performances, and a $500 grand prize for students will all mark the festive event.
The town hall meeting will begin at 3 p.m. at Varick Auditorium and include on the panel: Robert Rooks, Reform’s CEO; Daryl Atkinson, co-director and co-founder of Forward Justice; Karen Boykin-Towns, vice chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors; Steve Bishop, associate director for probation and system transformation, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group of the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Livingstone SGA President Justin Wade; and Bishop W. Darin Moore of the AME Zion Church.
Georgette “GiGi” Dixon, head of External Relations for Wells Fargo, will serve as moderator for the town hall meeting, which will include questions from the audience.
A 1,000 grand prize drawing will be held at the town hall for students.
The day will culminate with a dinner for criminal justice majors and Reform personnel at the Event Center. Criminal justice is the largest declared major on the campus of Livingstone College.
According to Reform’s website, there are 6.6 million people in the United States’ criminal justice system and 4.5 million of those are on probation or parole. Probation and parole failures account for 45 percent of all state prison admissions.
“Right now people under probation or parole make up the vast majority of our criminal justice system, yet the issue has received relatively little attention,” Reform says. “Our probation and parole programs were originally intended to hold people accountable and serve as an alternative to incarceration. But they have become a leading contributor to jail and prison populations. Essentially, they are a set-up for re-incarceration.”
Dr. Latarcia Barnes, interim chair of criminal justice and sociology at Livingstone College, is a former probation and parole officer. “I think this is a great opportunity for our students because it will allow them to have a different aspect of the criminal justice system. They are our future criminal justice practitioners and to have this program come to our campus will inspire them to make changes from within the system,” she said.
“This day of engagement will be an eye-opener for our students and our broader campus community as it relates to the expansive prison industrial complex and the policies that perpetuate their existence,” said Dr. Anthony Davis, Livingstone’s senior vice president and chief executive officer.
Since its inception in 2019, Reform has had some major wins, working to pass reform bills in California, Michigan, Georgia and New York, among others.
Mill was awarded the Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award in 2021 for his work with Reform.
“We are honored that Reform Alliance chose Livingstone College to launch its partnerships with HBCUs. We welcome this opportunity that affords us to be a part of a national conversation in addressing criminal justice reform,” said Livingstone President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr.
To learn more about Reform, visit its website at reformalliance.com