Executive Summary: Taking place over 5 hours during the afternoon of November 10th, 2014, in John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater, the American Justice Summit was an unprecedented public meeting of some of the most important individuals working in contemporary criminal justice reform. The event placed these individuals in front of an audience of six hundred-odd practitioners, activists, students, elected officials, and policy professionals, in conversation with leading journalists and each other, to describe the scope and contours of the problems posed by the country’s dysfunctional and interlocking systems of criminal justice – mass incarceration, police-community relations, the system’s disproportionate criminalization of young people, people of color, and the mentally ill, its contributions to urban poverty, violence, and alienation – and to grapple with potential solutions.
This report synthesizes data gathered from the event itself and its publicly available video record with dozens of participant and audience interviews in order to describe points of consensus and divergence among the gathered experts, to detail the full range of their proposed solutions, to evaluate the event’s impact on the gathered participants and the audience bearing witness, and to consider potentially fruitful directions for future efforts on a similar template. Having established the mold for large-scale, high-profile public events addressing criminal justice policy and advocating reform, Tina Brown Live Media and John Jay College have provided a powerful model for moving this essential conversation forward.
In addition to providing a snapshot of the event and its immediate impact, this report attempts to address the context of a fast-moving reform conversation and an ideologically inclusive movement, the shape and focus of which is in constant flux as it takes place across academic institutions, policy forums, and media platforms. More voices join this conversation every day; it is the job of events like the American Justice Summit to curate these voices, and amplify those with the most meaningful ideas to contribute.
Please note: Featured quotations throughout the document (shaded text boxes) contain hyperlinks to clips of the video and audio interviews from which they were drawn.