A Closer Look at the Narrative Surrounding Virginia’s Crime Rate
October 22, 2021
If you've seen many political ads this fall, you may have the impression that Virginia is experiencing a crime wave. But, criminal justice advocates say the numbers tell a different story. ... They're worried that fears of rising crime might undermine efforts to bring back a parole system or abolish solitary confinement or defelonize drugs. They're particularly concerned about the narrative of rising crime because, well, they say it's just not true. ... Premal Dharia at the Institute to End Mass Incarceration says the long-term trend about what's been happening behind bars is one that remains troubling. "We lead the world in incarcerating people, and we disproportionately incarcerate Black and brown people," Dharia says. And now that advocates for criminal justice reform are finally seeing some measure of success, she says efforts at addressing that disparity behind bars are imperiled by misinformation and fear. "An important if not central structural obstacle is the creation and proliferation of often misleading narratives that stoke fear, that play into old political tactics and that are often not grounded in actual needs and desires of our communities," explains Dharia.
October 15, 2021
As she assumes her new role as organizing fellow for Harvard Law School’s new Institute to End Mass Incarceration (IEMI), community organizer Brittany White finds herself thinking of Bianca. ... The institute proposes a new role for lawyers in the push to “decarcerate” America. “Lawyers think that power comes from law and permits, that the way liberal lawyers can make a difference is by going in and bringing power to clients. That’s not the way we think about it,” says faculty director and Wasserstein public interest professor of law Andrew Manuel Crespo. “We take our inspiration and our cues from movement work,” such as the civil-rights movement or labor organizing, because such things “have had the biggest impact on changing deep structural injustices in America.” The Institute, Crespo says, proposes that “power comes from the ground up,” and lawyers, in particular public defenders, should use their legal expertise to “help communities activate their power.” They want to teach the next generation of lawyers to be active partners with community organizers like White in the fight to end mass incarceration.
A book review by Primal Dharia:Early in “Redeeming Justice,” Jarrett Adams reflects on the power of storytelling and its role in criminal courtrooms across our country: “Who wins? In prison, I learned it’s not the lawyer who has amassed the most or the ‘best’ evidence. . . . The one who wins, I learned, is the one who tells the best story.” ... Adams’s story is a devastating one regardless of how it’s told. But the pages of this book deliver a gut punch, making every step along the way a visceral experience that readers are invited into. Wrongfully convicted by an all-White jury at the age of 17, Adams, a Black teenager charged with sexually assaulting a White teenager, served nearly 10 years of a 28-year prison sentence before being exonerated with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. Known as “Li’l Johnnie Cochran with the glasses” in prison, he delved into the law and fought for years to have his case reviewed while also helping countless others navigate their court cases from behind bars.
Andrew Manuel Crespo ’08 and Premal Dharia, leaders of the ambitious new Institute to End Mass Incarceration, take aim at ‘one of the defining civil rights issues of our time.’
Should Convicted Felons Serve on Juries?
June 4, 2021
Should convicted felons be allowed to serve on juries, sitting in judgment on their fellow citizens? On June 2, Premal Dharia, inaugural director of Harvard Law School’s Institute to End Mass Incarceration, moderated a discussion of this question, at an event co-sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute between two invited speakers: Brendon D. Woods, the chief public defender in California’s Alameda County, and James M. Binnall, an associate professor of law, criminology, and criminal justice at California State University, Long Beach.
Asian American and Pacific Islander elected officials make up just 0.9% of elected leaders in the U.S., despite AAPIs accounting for 6.1% of the population, according to a Reflective Democracy Campaign report released Tuesday. Why it matters: The report comes amid growing calls for greater AAPI visibility, following two mass shootings in which East Asian women and Sikh Americans were killed. The country has also witnessed a yearlong spike in anti-Asian incidents. Asians are the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S. and are projected to become the largest immigrant group by 2055. Without adequate representation, governments are unable to serve vulnerable AAPIs with the cultural competency and language access they require...The bottom line: "The people making and carrying out the political choices that affect AAPI communities don’t reflect them," said Premal Dharia, executive director of Harvard Law School's Institute to End Mass Incarceration, per the Reflective Democracy Campaign. "It is imperative that this change."
Premal Dharia urges pretrial change to ‘address our country’s addiction to incarceration and punishment’
May 4, 2021
Premal Dharia of Harvard Law School’s Institute to End Mass Incarceration testified before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on reforming the pretrial process as a way to reduce the injustices she says plague the criminal justice system.