Now that the country is facing four years of a Donald Trump presidency, we wonder what will happen with the efforts to reform the criminal justice system?
President Obama has often spoken in the past about the systematic oppression that our justice system currently places on Black and brown people. During the election, Hillary Clinton spoke about the errors of her husband’s 1990s crime bill and how she plans to implement policies to correct our criminal justice system.
However, Donald Trump never once spoke about the system needing improvements. In fact, he called himself the “law and order” candidate (insinuating that he will bring us back to the days of “stop and frisk”).
Although his neglect to acknowledge the oppressive nature that our justice system currently operates under is terrifying, there are proactive individuals out there determined to be part of the solution.
During the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City, a panel titled "Rebuilding Trust: On the Role of Tech + Data in Policing and Criminal Justice Reform" discussed how the evolution of technology can aide in reforming policing and the justice system. The panel featured John Legend, activist DeRay Mckesson, Prosecutor Impact Co-founder and President Adam Foss, Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights at Google Malika Saada Saar and U.S. Digital Service at the White House member Dr. Clarence Wardell III.
The panel not only addressed the inequalities in our current system, but it also highlighted the major administrative pit falls that the system has succumbed to. The general consensus across the board was that effective changes cannot be made until the methods by which we collect data improve.
The issue with figuring out how to solve the problem of police brutality, lethal force and unjust sentencing for people of color, there has to be a better way to collect and analyze the data.
DeRay Mckesson thoughtfully pointed out that there are some states that lump all murders into one statistic instead of separating crime committed by civilians and crimes committed by police.
"But they can tell you exactly how much rain fell in one city for the year," Mckesson jokingly said to prove how far technology has come for some irrelevant uses.
Additionally, another powerful moment came when Malika Saada Saar of Google pointed out that much of the conversation surrounding criminal justice reform is centered around men.
"90 percent of women behind bars are victims of sexual violence," Saar said to a quiet room hanging on to her every word.
She continued to explain that, for many young women in this country, they are victims in two ways: first, they are victimized when they are forced to become sex traffickers; second, they become victims when they are punished for the sex crimes someone else made them commit.
Saar's statements resonated with the room because they proved just how deep and convoluted the system is. However, with every heartbreaking story the panel told, they offered a solution and a possibility for hope.
Although John Legend could not speak from professional or law experience, he opened himself up to speak personally about how the failures of the justice system have impacted people he knows.
Legend described how hard it was for him to see families get torn apart and for friends of his to get sent to prison for long periods of time for non-violent felonies.
As he and the rest of the panel wrapped up the discussion, they ended on a positive note...literally.
John Legend closed the night with a rendition of "What's Going On" and a performance of "Love Me Now," which is from his new album.
(Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company)