Published in The Atlantic
By Darren Walker
About 18 months ago, there seemed to be a growing national consensus about the imperative of criminal-justice reform. There was rare bipartisan agreement on the scale and scope of the challenges America’s incarceration crisis presents. While it seems that federal momentum for reform has slowed—if not reversed, as of late—it’s still possible to take meaningful steps toward justice locally.
Several weeks ago, the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform—of which I was a member—recommended the closure of Rikers Island, the 8,000-person jail in the East River of New York. While the decision made New York City headlines, the issue is much larger. Rikers Island is actually a microcosm of everything wrong with America’s criminal-justice system, and may also offer a model for how it can be righted.
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The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
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