Hear Jones Discuss Criminal Justice Reform

Letter from Adam Tebrugge


The numbers are staggering. With 5  percent of the world’s population, the U.S.A. has nearly 25 percent of its prisoners.  More than 2 million Americans are behind bars and 70 million have criminal records that keep them from getting jobs, caring for their families and participating in civic life.

There is a growing realization that mass incarceration is one of the primary issues we face as a society. Throughout the country, people of all political persuasions are coming together to discuss solutions. Can we truly reduce our incarcerated population, reintegrate former prisoners into our communities, and maintain public safety? In Florida, we funnel more than $2 billion a year into our Department of Corrections. Can we allocate some of the resources we use on prisons and jails and instead focus on services for victims, improved resources for law enforcement and rehabilitation of offenders?

Van Jones is coming to Sarasota to help us begin those conversations. A 1993 graduate of Yale Law School, Van Jones has devoted his career to improving conditions across all of society’s strata. In 1996, he founded the Ella Baker Center to work for better schools, cleaner environment, and more opportunities for young people and working people in urban centers. He later turned his attention to the environment and released his first book, The Green Collar Economy, which became a bestseller in 2008. In 2013, he was hired by CNN to cohost Crossfire with Newt Gingrich, and he continues to provide political commentary on that network on a regular basis.

Perhaps his most audacious goal is found in the hashtag of his newest organization, #cut50, which wants to reduce incarceration in the United States by 50 percent within 10 years. With #cut50, Van Jones is helping to drive the national bipartisan conversation on criminal justice reform. He has been instrumental in building support for the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would reform federal prison sentencing, reduce automatic and harsh punishments, and increase support for rehabilitation programs. As he says on his website: “We need a massive groundswell of support—grassroots activists, formerly incarcerated people, influencers, artists—to pressure Congress and the President to take action.”

In November of 2015, I was fortunate enough to attend the “Operation Reform” conference that Van organized and hosted in Jacksonville. People from around the country came together to discuss the many challenges we will face as we reform our broken system. At Operation Reform, former prisoners sat next to businessmen, attorneys learned from social workers, Republicans and Democrats carried on civil conversations about policy. And throughout the two days, Van Jones was everywhere. He is an inspirational speaker, good listener and fierce advocate for reform. We are fortunate that he is coming to our area and I hope that you can attend.  All of us can work together to build the type of system that will truly deliver “justice for all.”

The event will be on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 7:30pm at the Sainer Pavilion at New College. Ticket information is here: https://goo.gl/qY4uCr Proceeds benefit Project 180 and the Boxser Diversity Initiative.

Adam Tebrugge is a Sarasota attorney.

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