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Broderick Johnson: Lobbying and mass incarceration

March 11, 2021 0:52:49
Kaltura Video

Broderick Johnson, a Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence at the Ford School, leads a discussion on lobbying and mass incarceration. Part of the Public Policy and Institutional Discrimination Discussion Series.


Afternoon everyone. Good
afternoon everyone.

Welcome to the fourth
and final session

of the public policy and

institutional discrimination
discussion series for

today's topic is lobbying
and mass incarceration,

or those who may not know me.

I am Stephanie Sanders,

support schools
Diversity Officer,

and also a lecturer.

And for starters,
I'd like to just

take a few minutes to
talk about the goal

of the series and also the
format of today's event.

The goal of this
series is to one,

create opportunities
for engagement.

And this gives faculty,

staff and students, of course,

an opportunity to get
to know faculty in

their policy engagement interest

and also their research
beyond the classroom.

A second goal of this
series is to foster

dialogue on important
issues of public policy,

which is why we're here today.

Our faculty to discuss for

today is Mr. Broderick Johnson,

who we are excited
to join us today.

And he will lead
today's discussion

and he will speak
about the topic of

lobbying and mass incarceration

for the first 30 minutes
of today's session.

And the last 20 minutes of

today's discussion will be

reserved for questions
and answers.

So we hope it to be a very

engaging and interactive
session today.

And during this time,

participants are surely invited

to make use of the chat box.

We're also use the
raise hand feature

and wait to be recognized so that

you can pose questions
directly to Mr. Johnson.

And without further ado,
I'd like to take this time

to introduce Mr. Johnson,

who afford school,

tells me the policymaker in
residence at the Ford School.

Uh, Mr. Johnson has
an extensive resume,

but I'll try to capture
what important elements

of it for today's purposes.

So Mr. Johnson is

a public policy and
political strategists with

more than three decades
of leadership at

the highest levels of government

and the legal profession.

He provides strategic
leadership advice

and counsel to clients
on legislative,

regulatory, legal,
and political issues.

Mr. Johnson has the
distinction of having been

appointed to senior posts
under two US Presidents.

He served as assistant
to the president and

cabinet secretary under
President Barack Obama.

And in that role,

he was the President's
primary liaison

to members of the cabinet,

where he directed a team
that helped coordinate

policy and communication

between the West Wing
and federal agencies.

President Obama also
appointed Mr. Johnson the

chairman the White House's

My Brother's Keeper Task Force.

So this is an
interagency initiative

designed to identify and
address the disparities

that hamper the
success of boys and

young men of color and to
improve the lives of all youth.

And in the Clinton White House,

Mr. Johnson was the
Deputy Assistant to

the President for
Legislative Affairs.

Finally, Mr. Johnson
has also served on

a number of senior
positions on Capitol Hill,

beginning in the House Office
of Legislative Council,

where he drafted such
landmark legislation as

the Family and
Medical Leave Act and

the Immigration Reform
and Control Act of 1986.

So please help me. Welcome Kathy,

policymaker and resident is to

project counseling at this time.

Mr. Johnson, you can please share

your screen and unmute
your microphone.

Thank you very much.

And Stephanie, you
can see my screen.

Yes. Because he my slot.

All right. There you go.
Thank you very much.

Step made for that very
generous introduction

and for the opportunity to,

to again, be in the
presence of wolverines.

Really miss being in Ann Arbor.

It's been way too long.

I mean, we're all
being so affected,

of course by this
pandemic in so many ways,

things that we love to do,

people we love to see, but, um,

you know, things now
certainly are getting better.

And I look forward
to the opportunity

to be in Ann Arbor and on campus,

hopefully no later than
this ball release to

come to the big house and visit

the Ford School than
the law school as well.

And look, I'm
delighted that I see

some friends, friends of, of,

I won't say many years because
she might shape at this,

but Cindy banks, Citibank,

I see you're here and it's
great to see you Sunday.

And a lot of love your
way. She's a great friend.

And I also notice that there's a,

one of my former students from

the Ford School course

I taught last semester
is here as well.

So See you there.

Maybe, maybe others as well.

And it's great that they're here.

And Ben's case
because it means he

really look forward
to seeing me and

it's not great
dependent at easier,

so doesn't add to is
class participation.

You did very well nonetheless.

So again, it's, it's real
honor to be here and Eve,

by the way, of our
NC double a for

a big tent tournament
starting tomorrow.

So it's all very exciting

and I look forward to
that as a nice diversion

from what otherwise has
been a long time not being

able to have the have
sports Michigan sports B,

something that can bring

great joy or sometimes
disappointment, way.

So rare to talk about

mass incarceration
and lobbying efforts.

And let me, let me start here

with sort of an
introduction slide.

I teach courses here at

the Ford School and at the
law school from time to

time that

examine the intersection
between effective lobbying.

That is the tools that
are used by lobbyists,

the limits that are on
lobbying, the ethics.

Those are both legal and
moral considerations.

How all that intersects with

the crisis of mass incarceration
in the United States.

As you all know,
criminal justice reform,

especially concerning how we

address specifically
mass incarceration,

has become one of

the dominant domestic
policy issues

at both the federal
and state levels.

It has, it has emerged
somewhat surprisingly,

I think, as a,

an issue or bi-partisan concern.

We've seen Democrats and

Republicans work on
these issues as well as

independence in ways
that is lacking

with respect to many other
public, public policy issues.

One of the key dividing line
has been drawn over whether

or not incremental change is

a better strategy for

addressing criminal
justice reform

and mass incarceration.

Versus a more comprehensive
approach that

would necessitate really ripping

out the system from its roots.

So this dichotomy, that
dynamic is a conflict that

continues to rage outrage at

the federal level and also
at state and local levels.

So let's begin with
this undeniable thesis.

And it has a very regrettable one

and is presented great challenges

and has caused great harm.

The United States by far,

leads the world in
incarcerating its citizens.

Mass incarceration has
destroyed many lives,

ripped apart many
families and communities,

done terrible harm to our
economy and further undermine,

undermined faith in
our justice system.

We know there are double
and triple standards.

The impact of mass incarceration

on individuals and communities

of color has been
especially pernicious.

So we look at these particular
critical questions.

When did we begin to get here to

the system of mass incarceration?

What are the origins?

I'm sure some of you, if
not all of you have read

The New Jim Crow Michelle
Alexander's incredible book

that traces I'm

mass incarceration all the
way back in her view to

the origins and slavery

and the emergence and reemergence
of racial class system.

So after racial classism,

after racial class system,

which was further fueled by

the so-called War of drugs that

began in earnest in his country

and in 1970s and accelerated
through the 80s and

90s and continued through

beginning of this century
and even continues today.

In her thesis is
that at its core,

this system has been driven
by race and racial animus.

It's been directed by
politicians who have

insisted on harsh sentences,

like three-strikes,
three-strikes laws and

XLS, excessively long sentences.

Mandatory minimums, and
even death penalties

are all very much associated

with the so-called war on drugs.

And many of these politicians

over the course of
time and through

these different
racial caste systems,

have been able to
come up with sort of

a race-neutral approach or
race-neutral messaging.

And yet, the results of this
system have hardly bend.

Race-neutral by, by anyone's,

I think by anyone's

So we have this also irrefutable
fact that hard data,

cold data tells us the
impact of this system,

especially with regard
to people of color.

Just to highlight
a few things here.

And again, these, these
are shocking numbers.

This is data that

nevertheless is irrefutable.
So here we are.

The United States were home to

5% of the world's population,

but 25% of the world's prisoners

are incarceration is four times

higher than that of China.

In 980, there were 500000
people behind bars in America.

0.5 million people, that is 980.

Today there are 2.2 million
people and there's been some,

somewhat of a reduction
over the past year,

but the numbers are

still staggering and
well above 2 million.

It has quadrupled them since 980.

Every year we spend $80 billion

to keep people incarcerated
at the federal level.

Again, put that in perspective.

$80 billion, roughly a third of

the justice department's
budget goes

toward incarceration of people.

And in terms of
racial disparities,

and Latinos make up

30 percent of our population,

but 60 percent of our
incarcerated population.

About one in every 35
African American men,

one in every 88 Latino
men serving time.

Right now. Quite a disparity

relative to white men
where the number is 1214.

Although interestingly
enough, that number,

that ratio has been increasing.

A couple of other things that are

not on a slide in terms of

the numbers that go again
to the disparities.

1 million dads are in prison.

And one out of

every nine African American
kids has a father in prison.

Again, 1 million
fathers are in prison,

and one out of every nine
African American kids

have a dad in prison.

So you have to, you
know, even now,

especially you have
to say how did

so many political leaders
and other leaders,

even religious leaders in many of

the African American community
allow this to develop.

Couldn't see the handwriting
on the wall when they were

supporting laws in the seventies

and eighties and nineties.

That a tough, tough and

sentencing that took
away the ability of

prosecutors and judges to be

somewhat lenient
released to better

understand the
circumstances of people

they were indicting or that
they were sending to prison?

Was it naivete?

Was it uncaring?

Sort of heart in the cases of,

of many of these leaders.

That's certainly one side of

the argument that
some people project.

I think though it's
also important

from the standpoint of looking

at the reality of what was

happening in these communities
during these times,

especially in the seventies,
eighties, and nineties.

When because of the explosion of

crack cocaine and
so-called angel dust,

we saw we saw violet
fueled drug activity,

drug trades in many of

these communities of color and
for many of these leaders,

and they were so

deeply concerned about
the impact of drugs and

violence in their own communities

that they were willing to,

to propose and also to

support some pretty
harsh sentencing.

Though that has led to, again,

mass incarceration that's

affected communities of

color and men of

color and African American
men even more specifically,

the system of mass incarceration.

Let's talk a little bit about

who has benefited
from the system.

Sadly. But there's no question

that there had been
beneficiaries of it.

Politicians. There are
many politicians who,

because of being able to

exploit the conditions
in many communities,

especially in many
urban communities,

have been able to ride

political success based on
their cause for law and order.

And they'd been able
then to exploit

fears about race and class
for their own benefit.

For many law
enforcement entities.

As a result of the tools
available for mass,

fought for incarcerating people,

that they've been
able to benefit from.

The power and resources for

purposes of personnel
and equipment.

As a result of this system.

Communities where
prisoners are located,

jobs and economic stability
of come to many of

those communities
had been maintained

in many of those communities.

And also, another way
to look at this though,

is that there are
many communities.

There are many communities
and urban parts of

this country that have
become more safe,

certainly as a result of

this massive locking
up of people.

Now there's bad, of course,

a tremendous price
to pay with, say,

the absence of many men of

color in those communities
as a result of this,

there's no question there are

communities in this
country that are,

that have been set there
now safer than they were.

Before we saw many of these
policies put into place.

The private prison industry

has certainly seen over
the last several decades.

It's been a bit of a
roller coaster though,

depending on who's in office.

But increases in contracts for

federal and state
procurement agreements.

And those have certainly in where

those contracts have certainly
been been put in place.

We've seen benefits
for their executives,

their employees, and
their investors.

But again, it really
can depend largely on

which party is as an
office don't Obama years.

It was certainly
tougher for private,

the private prison industry
because we essentially put a,

a barn place with
regard to the use

of private prisons
in many instances,

something that was lifted during

the Trump years and will be

different under the abide the

administration and
other industries.

I would just point
out here, the phone,

phone companies are among,

some phone companies are
among those that have

benefited from the
system in as much

as they've been able to get
away with charging really

high rates for phone

between incarcerated
and their families.

Families that certainly
in many situations

could by no means be able to

afford being able to
communicate that way.

And there have been efforts
at the FCC to address this,

but again, it has been a
bit of a partisan issue.

So this is not to say

that in some of these
instance, for example,

the communities where people
have jobs as a result of

prisons being in their
communities that there's

something evil or nefarious here.

It's just to say that there
are those communities and

those groups that have
benefited as a result

of the system of mass incarceration
and the locking up of

so many people want
to go to those

that had been harmed most
by mass incarceration.

Some of this is quite obvious

when you look at the
statistics in terms of

the increases incarceration rates

for adults and juveniles.

Certainly what's
happened with respect

to men of color and
women of color.

And the families of
those incarcerated.

The impact of mass
incarceration on children

is clear and shameful,
an undeniable.

The lasting effects on

those children can't
be understated.

As well as the economic impact of

our system of mass incarceration.

Locking up of the
breadwinners, men and women,

who would otherwise be
in a position to support

their families
certainly better than

they otherwise are able
to do without question

when there just during

their incarceration,
but even afterwards.

One way to think about mass
incarceration, by the way,

is it also leads to sort of,

I'd call it lasting

The impact of someone being being

incarcerated can of course

impact them for
their entire lives.

Whether it had to do with jobs,

economic opportunities, the, the,

the stature to last,

the lack of stature, um,

all the stigmas that
are associated as well.

Also clearly communities,
especially urban communities

where the loss of many
people, whether it be the,

the sons and their
husbands, and the alcohols,

and the grandfathers
and grandmothers

and many other people who are

important in those communities.

And perhaps because of

drug related issues ended

up not because they
were dealing drugs,

but perhaps because
they had drug problems,

ended up no longer being
in those communities.

And it's ADA, of course,

a horrible impact as well
for judges and prosecutors.

Certainly by losing
their discretion

and their ability to be able to

discern whether or
not someone should

face this kind of punishment for

what they did versus
that kind of punishment.

Rehabilitation rather
than punishment at all.

It's pretty tremendous burden
on judges and prosecutors.

And they have overstaffed

prison administrators and
prison staff as well.

For employers who struggled
to try to find it,

particularly if they're
based in urban areas,

trying to find employees

to help them run their
business 6 successfully.

Then finally, taxpayers,

the incredible amounts of

money the taxpayers see put into

a system to lock people up
rather than them being in

a position of seeing
their friends

and their neighbors in
their community members,

being able to contribute
to the local economy.

But also I'm national economy.

With respect to the issue

of who drove mass incarceration.

I just want to make this point.

I mentioned the Michelle
Alexander book.

There's another book
that I've actually embed

is aware of this that I've
used in my classes as well,

because it gives a
different perspective

in terms of sort of the,

the Michelle
Alexander approach or

analysis with regard to who
drove mass incarceration.

Professor James
Foreman has written

a book that's been out for

several years called
locking up our own.

It's a book that looks
at what happened in

Washington DC through
the 60s, 70s, 80s, and

Nineties and really into
the turn of the century.

With respect to the policies,

the police practices,
the approach of,

of politicians in a
city that over time,

certainly throughout
those decades,

became a city with,

with more black leadership,

with dominant black leadership.

And yet we saw incredible rise

in incarceration rates
during those times.

And the title of his
book is so suggestive

of this notion when

answering this question of
who drove mass incarceration.

Because he points to

the fact again that many
African-American leaders in DC,

we're for policies that have
led to mass incarceration,

particularly of African-American
men in Washington DC.

And so again, going back
to what I said before,

what what drove that?

Was it I gave it a was

it was it just kind of
for political expedience.

Having been in DC through
these periods and knowing

some of the people who were

involved in and these policies.

And there's prosecutions.

Thinking about the
conditions that were

that we faced in DC at the time

that led to search
and violence in DC,

we became close to the murder
capital of the country.

A lot of that driven By the,

the impact of crack cocaine

and other drugs in
the nation's capital.

And then of course, the inflex,

the tragic influx of guns
in the nation's capital.

All of that contributed to

this notion of, of black folks,

black leaders, driving
mass incarceration

and locking up a
URL, so to speak,

I would certainly
recommend came formance,

but as well for that analysis,

because it does frame that
how one should think about

what it will take to turn

around the system of
mass incarceration.

Who do we need to appeal to?

And what do we need
to lead with in terms

of kind of the thesis
or the theory of what

do you have to think about in

terms of which
leadership you need to

turn around on
these issues or who

you need to be helping
to lead these efforts.

If you start with
sort of a notion

that this is also
based in racism,

which in many fundamental
ways, of course it is.

Does it make it tougher to
be able to appeal though,

to certain groups,
especially on the right,

are especially in the
Republican Party,

are especially perhaps among

conservative Democrats in
order to make a difference.

And then just thinking about
the general public and how

the general public
sees things as well.

So that affects again,

how you lobby on

these issues and thinking
about how you appeal to

different people get involved
in it is a moral argument,

is a legalistic argument,

is an argument that's
based kind of event on

the notion of black folks making

sure we are better
taken care of our own,

of our own children and families.

As we address these issues.

All this data, all the data's,

what I point to earlier is
of course very important.

And data fuels debates
and discussions,

but is also so important
to get it from

the standpoint of
how you effectively

lobbying on these issues,

to think about how you can

project individual
stories that will move

public policymakers and
move the general public in

terms of how they think
about the necessity to.

Thanks. This is sort

of what we referred
to in Washington.

Oftentimes when
we're talking about

a public policy campaign is
who are the real people here,

so to speak, that
you can bring into

the debate that you
can talk about.

Again, that can convince

the public and
convince policymakers,

convince politicians
that they should

care about addressing an issue,

especially an issue as
difficult as this one can be.

And that's very, very
tricky because, you know,

it's very hard to
bring a degree of

sympathy to people who are,

who have been incarcerated for,

for crimes that many
people would say,

you know, kinda, kinda get it.

But you really didn't
need to do you.

And you should pay
a price for the,

for the crimes that you commit.

So I want to talk about

a specific example here of

something that I've
struggled with.

This young man and his
photograph spent five years

in federal prison for
Douglass distribution.

Back in the mid to late nineties,

he got a mandatory
minimum sentence.

He had no prior record
before he was arrested.

He had lived in

a homeless shelter throughout

high school and the District
of Columbia with his mom,

his mom and had drug
related problems.

And that's how they ended up
in in a homeless shelter.

He was a student at
Howard University.

When he was arrested.
He was a junior at

Howard University when
he when he was arrested.

I don't personally.

This photograph
that you see here,

which is quite compelling to
seal their president behind,

has nothing to do
with a photograph.

That's kinda the way
I guess it must have

been taken for purposes

of this unless I handed him

a memo office because
there's a personal element,

strong personal element
to the story for me.

This young man was
a mentee of mine.

I met him when he was
in the shelter and

I was a leader of a program
that that reached out to,

to young people who

lived in homeless shelters
to try to help them

with their with their
educational and social needs.

He was the oldest of

the kids who were
living in a shelter.

These this was a big family
shelter in Washington DC.

So I was a mentor to him and

he became very
close to my family.

So close to my family.

The reason he's
wearing a tuxedo and

the photograph is that this is

actually at our
wedding in 990 three,

he was one of the,

one of the ashes at our wedding.

He was very close to us.

If you read the description
of what happened to him.

Again, he had never been

involved in any
drug-related crime.

In fact, I remember him

saying on a number of
occasions because of

the impact of drugs on on

his family life and
when his mother

that he thought drug dealers

should get the death penalty.

And so what was shocking then,

and I had no idea
that he would ever do

anything that would involve

either drug use or distribution.

So with shocking, when I got
the news that he had been

arrested and that he

was facing a mandatory
minimum sentence.

He was walking through an
airport in Cincinnati and

He was profiled and
some officers followed

him and they suspected him

of having drugs in his knapsack.

And to make a long story short,

he was arrested after he

landed back in Washington
DC and they've

gone through to his package
back in Cincinnati.

And the DA arrested on,

um, he's been on prison
for number of years now,

but he was not able to finish
getting his degree that he

was so close to
obtaining and his life

has been affected considerably.

Now, if you're trying to DOE
project a story of someone

for for issues around

mass incarceration and the
impact of mass incarceration.

The story, you know,

you want to be able to tell.

But one of the challenges
is whether or not

this story, for example,

having this young
man be a witness at

a hearing or taking him

around on Capitol Hill
to meetings with,

with members of Congress
who talk about the need

for for sentencing reform,

for prison reform, for
criminal justice reform.

Is this going to be the
story that is going to

draw the kind of
empathy you need.

Or instead is it going to be
sort of the story of say,

a white woman who committed
a similar offense,

who was caught carrying
opioids illegally.

Those are some of
the calculations at

you that you have to make if

you're trying to lobby
on these issues.

But you would hope that
a story is compelling,

is this young man story would be

able to move public
opinion as well.

And that's one of the
real challenges that we,

that we face when
we're trying to work

on issues as difficult as

as as the issue of

criminal justice reform
and mass incarceration.

I want to end with
something that happened

that door 2017 and 2018.

That was, was a good story.

Some people would
say that it wasn't

enough that Congress
and the White House,

the Trump administration,
work together in order

to be able to get the
first step Act passed.

But there was a debate and

a successful debate
to 2017 in 2018,

US House of Representatives
and the US Senate

passed the first step
Act and that became law.

And it's had an impact
on thousands of

people who are incarcerated
and their families.

Again, some people
would say it didn't go

nearly enough that there
are lots of issues

that have to do with
what happens after

someone has been
released from prison.

And also issues that
have to do with

preventing people from being in

those circumstances
in the first place.

Well, we saw this incredible
army, so to speak,

of advocacy groups,
both business groups,

including even that,
even Koch Industries,

I got very involved
in the push for,

for criminal justice reform.

No surprise present or

prisoners rights groups
got very involved.

Even many law enforcement
organizations got involved.

Civil and human rights groups

got involved in
religious organizations,

of course, making more,

more a moral argument are

religiously based moral argument.

And he saw many coalitions of

these organizations
getting together

to work on these issues.

And they were successful
and being able to

move the needle considerably
and getting something done.

That again, took a lot of effort,

but has had a real impact.

And it shows that
there are ways to

build center-right,
center-left coalitions,

business groups working with

civil and human rights
organizations from

time to time on these issues
in a very surprising way.

There's a lot left to
be done after this.

And so one of the big
questions is, what comes next?

The Biden administration
has made clear it wants to

continue to further
criminal justice reform.

Along. There are members of
both parties who continue.

Certainly talk about
the need for it.

We will see though,
when you look at

the stack of major initiatives,

whether it's the passage
of the COVID relief bill

that will be signed
into law tomorrow.

And you look at infrastructure,

which is a major next initiative

out of this administration,

as well as issues around
climate change and the like,

where it's criminal
justice reform

rank among the priorities.

At what point can we see
really further change,

further momentum
for more changes on

criminal justice reform
at the federal level.

So last thing I would say here

is perhaps we shouldn't look at

the federal level anyway in terms

of where the major
changes need to be made,

there have been a lot of reform,

successful reform efforts
done at the state level,

and those will continue.

Some are driven by state budgets.

For example, at least in

the minds of some who
were pushing for changes

at the state level
because of the impact

of mass incarceration
on their budgets.

And businesses in many states

have gotten very involved
to around the issues of,

of people with that are available

to supply their workforce.

And the overwhelming number

of people incarcerated in this,

in this society are
incarcerated in

state and local
institutions as well.

So even if the,

the priorities that otherwise

exist sort of get an a way of

federal changes in
the short-term.

Anyway, we can look
to more changes as

the state level and a lot of

resources put into that as well.

So I'll end with
that and I'm glad to

entertain any questions
that you all have.

But that's, that's why I like

33 minute course on

criminal justice reform and

there's a much longer
one that I teach.

Thank you, Stephanie. Glad
to take any questions.

Thank you so much, Mr. Johnson

for sharing your
thoughts on lobbying and

mass incarceration
and for linking

mass incarceration to the
historical context of slavery,

race-neutral laws and
policies that you mentioned,

as well as providing us
with reasonable versus on

Michelle Alexander's
in John James

performance analysis
of incarceration.

So at this time,

I'd like to for the
remainder of the session,

I'd like to open it up for you.

And as a reminder, participants
are invited to make

use of the chat box or
the raise hand feature.

Recognize so that you can post

questions directly
to Mr. Johnson.

I think there's a
question. Hand raise area.

It looks like Ben Levine's
hand is raised in oh, yes.

Thanks, Ethan, am I going
to come off mute? Speak?



Hello, Professor Johnson.

Pay them in YouTube.

I'd love to just learn
a little bit more

here about like efforts

or strategies and the legal side

to about conditions within
conditions inside prisons.

So there's me kinda mention
movements, coalitions,

efforts to limit
mass incarceration

or the return of
incarcerated people.

But what about what's

happening inside of
jails and prisons?

Is that also being addressed?

Well, yeah, it certainly has
been addressed and some of

the legislation Ben,
at the federal level,

but especially at
the state level,

there have been a number
of number of efforts

to address conditions
inside of prisons.

That can be very tough though,

to make reforms era
because sort of the jet,

there's kind of a general view

that you have to breakthrough,

which is that people who are

incarcerated didn't feel
that the conditions

under which they are incarcerated

are comfortable in
a sense and that,

that, that that's a
short sighted view.

I mean, conditions in prisons
should be such that they

help lead peak people toward

rehabilitation and
successful rehabilitation,

which would involve say,
workforce training, for example.

So some, certainly many
jurisdictions I would say

that are forward-looking
address those kinds of reforms.

But again, they're
somewhat atypical.

And many other places as well,

you just don't hear
a lot of people sort

of talking about
those situations.

All right? Sure.

They suggest that there's

a question in the
chat box and I'll

read from so this
question is for Julie,

so what would your top
priority for changing

federal policy to reduce
incarceration levels?

What would be your top priority?

And can you discuss any
promising policies that could be

persuaded to reduce recidivism
beyond workforce training?

Yeah, I think those two are,
are associated questions.

Because a major reason

that we have the system
of mass incarceration

is because of the pernicious
nature of of the way we,

we fail to give people

opportunities and what they
need when they get released.

Sort of this notion I mentioned

of lasting incarceration, right?

That you, that you
get out of prison.

And in many jurisdictions,

UK, you if you are in for felony,

which certainly the
case with most people,

can't vote, or you can't
get public housing.

And until very recently,

you couldn't get access
to a Pell Grant.

Perhaps get a GED,

but you couldn't get a Pell Grant

to allow you to pursue
higher education.

And then issues, of course,

around employment
that have led to

many jurisdictions efforts to ban

the box or among many employers
to ban the box as well.

So I think that solid,

I guess I would answer
that question that it's

really important to
look at the back-end,

like what happens to people after

they are released from these,

from institutions important
to have training,

workforce training and
other opportunities

for people when they're in,

but for people to
have support systems

and to take away
the barriers that

not just stigmatize
them when they get

released for the long haul,

but also they get in
the way of them again,

being able to take care of
themselves economically,

be able to house themselves
and their families

in, in healthy environments.

Healthy from both a physical
and emotional standpoint.

And then also to be

rehabilitated to the point
where they can vote and

have an impact on what's

happening in public policy
in their communities.

So I think a lot of
that really is, again,

that back-end set of issues be

to prevent as much as we can

people being incarcerated
in the first place.

But let's stop this,

this cycle over recidivism in

this country which feeds
this, these numbers.

So terribly. 70. Can I

go throw out a question
to this group here?

This is, Ben knows this.

I'll treat this like this
is in the classroom.


Are people hopeful about
the possibility of

criminal justice reform
being further along?

For example, in your state,

imagine that most of

you even on the Zoom call
or in state of Michigan,

the people who are
politicians talking about it.

There are things happening at

the legislative level,
the state of Michigan.

Brad Cindy, hey,
Cindy Gaia or hey,

I think I think it's
sort of a mixed bag.

As far as feeling hopeful.

I think we've got, especially
at the local level,

certain things happening like our

local like Eli saw that who
is getting rid of cash bail.

And we're starting
to see some things.

I think the night,

I think at the national
level happens,

the administration as
you were talking about

before, you know, I mean,

it's certainly we've
got better chances now,

although there was some success

last during the last

which I'm really glad you
touched on that piece to it.

Especially talking about
the lobbying effort

and maybe even address more.

If you could address even more

on not only the state level,

because so many of our issues by

state sort of advocacy policies.

I mean, you look at
the right to life,

folks who have been
going state-by-state.

And now we're seeing it
in voter suppression.

And I'm sure for
criminal justice,

that this also is starting at
the local and state level.


Moving up to the federal,

as well as not always,

we'll lighten what
the perfectionist,

but realizing that you
need to take the steps

to get there, right?

Yeah, yeah, It's interesting

when you think about
lobbying tactics,

Cindy, around something
like this, right?

Because I mean, one of the,

I think the important
successful tactics

in any kind of a campaign
where you've got people who

are working on and
successfully made reforms

happened on whatever the issue
at the state level or who

are committed to change
on the state level is to

have them sort of
intercede, to lobby.

At the federal level. You know,

if you're going to
move a lawmaker,

federal law maker,
from a state of

Michigan on an issue
like mass incarceration.

It certainly does help if

that lawmaker and
his or her staff is

being approached as being

lobbied by people from the
local level who can say,

as a result of these measures
that we put in place,

it does state bubble.

We've seen these kinds of

reductions in prison populations,

in jail populations in
arrests in our jurisdiction.

That that is that had a big
role to play, certainly.

And what happened
in 2017 and 2018.

And moving lawmakers from
pretty conservative states and

districts to a point
where they would

also support criminal
justice reform.

Event tremendous reforms made

in the state of
Texas, for example.

And Texas has been moving or

toward perhaps being
a purple state,

sort of, but still pretty
conservative state.

And yet we saw it. We
certainly saw texas lawmakers,

federal Texas lawmaker

supporting criminal
justice reform.

Same with Georgia as well,
where congressmen Collins,

former congressman
Collins worked with

Congressman Jeffreys
from New York

on the first step act
as major champions.

A lot of that I'm sure
was driven by what was

happening in Georgia,
had impressed him.

Thank you.


It's going to so
windy Hawkins has

her hand up and she has a
question for you, Mr. Johnson.



I was actually going
to answer sorry.

That's my dog barking.

Answer a question about
hope and the State

of Virginia and around
criminal justice reform.


So I think what I struggle with

a lot as someone who's

interested in criminal
justice reform.

An abolition really
is that like ending

cash bail is really great
for people moving forward.

But what I want to know is,

how do we go back and help

the people that are still
being harmed and incarcerated?

And so something that find
myself to be a hopeful person,

but something that's hard

for me in the state
of Michigan is

the truth in sentencing laws and

how people are forced to

serve just indeterminant
Lee long sentences.

And I wonder if you know any sort

of legislative actions or
if you find hope and like

letting people out after 25
or 30 years because there's

so much hope in

reducing jail populations
or an ending cash bail.

But then there's all these people

that had been
suffering for so long

that are often left out of

like legislation and
moves towards justice.

Sure. Show yes, there are
many efforts or your states.

On, on the addressing

these indeterminate sentences are

these sentences that are so

excessive that people just

will languish in jail
for 30, 40 years.

And Ben will recall

this incredible film that
actually showed last semester.

And I would encourage all of
you. It's available on it.

I think it's still
available on Amazon Prime.

But it's a film called simply

time. That's the title of them.

And it's a documentary.

And it chronicles
the 20 year effort

by by family husband and wife.

Husband incarcerated
45-year sentence for

an armed robbery that that the

two of them committed when
they were in their early 20s.

She served three years in prison.

She was pregnant when
she went into prison.

They but he's he had

a 45-year sentence
and it looked like

he was going to serve
all of that sentence.

But she got very involved

in efforts to get
clemency for him.

And I won't I guess

I shouldn't say how
the documentary ends.

Because when I
watched a documentary

actually for the first time,

I expected a very
different ending.

Honestly, I didn't
know how it would end.

I thought that really

because they re six
children by the way,

I could say that 26 sons

while he was in
prison all this time.

And several of those sons

have now gone onto
professional careers.

One's a dentists and
other one's a lawyer.

It's really quite a story.

But the most important thing

when you to go to your question

is that that they have gotten

involved in efforts to address

these indeterminate
an excessively

long sentences in the state of

Louisiana to at least get

clemency consideration
for many people.

But that's an example of what,
what has been happening.

And there's certainly
been legislative

efforts and there's an adult.

So the first step
back, people got

released from prisons who weren't

going to get released anytime

before their sentences were over.

So you're right though,

to pinpoint that there are
so many people who spend

so much time up to the end of

their sentences and
their lives are

over once they end up in prison.

Because so reduce the
population by, but again,

without the support on

the other side of when
people get released,

they'll end up, they'll end
up in many cases anyway.

Back in prison again.

Where in many cases homeless.

Just languishing in our society.

And that's obviously
deeply tragic.

I think I see a
hand raised there.

I I'm not John. No.

No. Yeah. Sure. What?



Hi. You asked about
hope and I work out at

the women's prison here in

Michigan with pregnant
women in prison.

And we chest, the state
just decided not to

shackle women to their
labor and delivery bad.

Year ago.

That's a long way from hope to

have just that they don't have.

They can have a support
person but only one.

A lot of things that make it

difficult and then
they have to be

returned to prison
within 24 hours.

And not with their baby
after they give birth.

After they give birth.

So they have 24 hours.

Or if the mother has had some
sort of birthing problem,

like if she had a C-section,

she gets to stay an extra day.

And so it poses
enormous hardships.

Well, first of all,
on the mother who

therefore it can nurse

her baby or see that child
until God knows when.

But sometimes the
families lives, you know,

they might live in the UP and

the state doesn't notify
them that the woman has gone

into labor so somebody can
begin to make the drive

down so that child There's
either in the hospital,

it goes to foster care until
somebody can pick it up.

I mean, it's just it's a

very dysfunctional,
unhelpful situation.

And the reason I bring it up is

largely that the organizations
who do this kind

of work find that

if they challenge the
system in any way,

they can be descend by two.

The prison, Massachusetts
did that fairly recently.

Did watch stopped. Stopped.

Oh, grandma, heavy.

So what is it?

They're doulas who go in.

So women who are trained to
be a support person in birth.

And this is just because nobody

else was allowed to go
in with these women.

Well, and so I

guess something happened
in Massachusetts where

the organization challenged
the prison system

in such a way that they said,

That's okay, we don't
need to hear them.

And I think that's a that's

a maybe a hesitation
that a lot of

well intentioned nonprofits
working with prisoners

have there's ensure roles
as I'm sure you know,

when you do an end
to her president.

Yeah. No question. You know,

this issue about chuckling

pregnant women who
are incarcerated

was was part of the of

the step back at the
federal level anyway,

and prohibiting that
practice anymore,

at least at the federal level.

So as barbaric anyway,

you know, it's, it's great
when you see progress.

But let's not delude ourselves
that we've got barbaric,

things that we have
that just shouldn't be,

have to be subject to a
change in the law is dead.

Morality should keep us

from every joint in
the first place,

but progress is progress in it.

I think that just goes back to

sort of I'm sorry. Go ahead.


I was just nodding my
head in agreement.

And this is something a bit
and embed can attest to this.

This is as i'd,

I'd start off with saying that

there's the there's
this bright line.

It seems between whether we

need to take a wholesale
approach or whether continuing

to make an incremental change is

good and or enough because,

you know, better, as good
as my old boss used to say.

And yet is that always the case?

If you've got
something that is so

fundamentally kind of
rotten at the core.

Suppose to Michelle
Alexander's approach,

this making incremental changes,

perhaps it makes some people

feel a little better
in some people

on the margins do better
and some lives are changed.

These aren't all just
about statistics.

And yet does it
keep us from being

able to do something
more significant

because of all the
political capital that is

exercised in trying to
make incremental change.

You'll get an a
first step back done

was not a small thing.

And yet could we
have gotten larger?

And among the people
who argued for

much bolder approach
was Eric Holder.

And if you read
James Norman's book,

Eric is pretty is pretty critical

of what Eric Holder did when
he was US Attorney in DC.

Thank you.

Of course.

Thank everyone. We are over time.

Thanks for for attending

today's session for
posing questions

to Mr. Johnson on

the importance of lobbying
and mass incarceration.

So we can see that there
is a lot of tensions

between the beneficiaries and who

benefits from a
system like that in

the far reaching consequences

of a family's in their lives.

So this concludes our E dance.

Thank you so much
for joining us and

state in 20 twenty one,

twenty two, twenty two,

public policy and institutional

discrimination discussion series.

Go blue.