The Legal Action Center is incredibly grateful to all those who made our recent “Restoration of Rights” event a great success! Generously hosted by our Board Chair, Brad S. Karp, and his law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, the evening included a keynote speech by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, as well as a panel moderated by LAC Board Member and Director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at New York University, Professor Anthony C. Thompson. The panel was comprised of LAC staff members Monica Welby, Deputy Director of Litigation, Lionel Oglesby, Paralegal Supervisor, Roberta Meyers, Director of State Strategy and Reentry, Gabrielle de la Gueronniere, Director of National Policy, and Tracie Gardner, Vice President of Policy Advocacy. The panelists spoke to the plethora of barriers faced by the constituents we serve – particularly individuals with past criminal records – the systemic issues at play, and the legal services and policy advocacy LAC employs to dismantle those discriminatory barriers. As Brad prefaced in his introduction that evening, Congressman Jeffries, Professor Thompson, all the panelists, as well as audience members engaged in an “important discussion about how our criminal justice system is creating and perpetuating inequities that threaten the core values in our democracy.”
In his keynote speech, Congressman Jeffries recounted several injustices in American history including slavery, Jim Crow laws, disenfranchisement, the failed “War on Drugs,” and mass incarceration, while simultaneously acknowledging feats of justice like passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that outlawed segregation, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Sentencing Act. He ultimately conveyed a message of hope that, through the work of activists, advocates, and organizations like LAC, great progress can still be made. “We’re at the beginning of that journey, in a backlash moment, heading into another period of progress, and I’m grateful for all that you are doing to help America once more.” Through LAC’s work with partner organizations, policymakers, directly-impacted individuals, and all our supporters, we will continue to build upon this opportunity for progress, because it is clear – criminal justice reform and addressing institutional inequity is absolutely crucial.
To view a video recording of the evening, you can visit our YouTube channel here. You can also see more photos from the event on our Facebook page here (will link once photos are uploaded).