Lecture Series Explores Justice in the '70s

An A-list array of historians and other scholars is on tap for the latest incarnation of a groundbreaking, semester-long lecture series at John Jay that looks at justice in America decade by decade.


The series, “Conflicting Conceptions of Justice in the 1970s,” will once again serve as a central component of an Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP) course taught by Visiting Professor of Economics Michael Meeropol, along with readings, interactive Blackboard sessions and 90-minute discussions before the lectures.


Columbia University historian Eric Foner led off the list of guest speakers on February 4 with a discussion of “The Changing Conception of Freedom: The End of the 1960s and the Beginning of the 1980s.” Following Foner on February 11 was John Jay’s own Professor Delores Jones-Brown of the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration, who offered a thought-provoking look at “Policing and Racial Disparities.”


Upcoming presentations in the weekly series will feature linguist/philosopher/political activist Noam Chomsky; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Carl Bernstein; Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s Studies Blanche Wiesen Cook; musician/teacher/author Larry Sandberg; economist Richard Eberling; historians Ellen Schrecker and Kim Phillips-Fein; Distinguished Professor of History Gerald Markowitz, and his frequent book co-author, historian David Rosner.


The series is co-sponsored by JASA, the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged.


As in the past, Meeropol drew on personal and professional connections to enlist some of “the heavy hitters in the lineup.” The key to the series’ success, he noted, “will be whether we get people from the community, from CUNY, from the John Jay campus, to come out and hear this.”


The series is open to the general public. The complete schedule for “Conflicting Conceptions of Justice in the 1970s,” including dates, times and locations, can be found online at www.jjay.cuny.edu/1970s.




Athens Site of 2014 Biennial  Conference

The biennial international conference on justice, security and human rights that has been held by John Jay since 1992 will be heading to the cradle of democracy – Athens, Greece – in June 2014, President Jeremy Travis announced recently.


Last held in 2012 on John Jay’s newly expanded campus, the conference is designed to promote international and interdisciplinary understanding of justice issues in their broadest sense, bringing together the world’s scholars, practitioners, government leaders, justice advocates and representatives of international organizations.


The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which has previously partnered with John Jay on the “Policing Across Borders” project, has awarded a generous grant to support the conference. The College’s on-site partner will be KEMEA, the Center for Security Studies in the Greek Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection. “With KEMEA and the Niarchos Foundation, we could not have better partners,” Travis said.


Professor George Andreopoulos of the Department of Political Science has been named by Travis to head the conference planning committee. Andreopoulos, who is also director of the College’s Center for International Human Rights, has been the director of the “Policing Across Borders” project and has extensive personal and professional connections in Greece. 


Criminal Justice Journalism Prizes Awarded to    
Mother Jones, Times-Picayune & Journalist/TV Writer David Simon

For the second year in a row, a provocative piece of investigative journalism in Mother Jones magazine captured one of the Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards presented on February 4 by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ).


Shane Bauer’s article “No Way Out,” an examination of solitary-confinement practices in California, won the award in the single-story category. The award for best series of articles was presented to Cindy Chang, the lead writer of “Louisiana Incarcerated: How We Built the World’s Prison Capital,” an eight-part series that ran in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune.


The reporters were honored at a ceremony and dinner held in conjunction with the 8th annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America, “Smart Justice: Changing How We Think About Crime and Punishment (and How We Report It).” The ceremony also included the presentation of the CMCJ’s first Justice Trailblazer Award, to David Simon, the Baltimore-based journalist, author and television producer.


“Sharp and incisive journalism is essential to broadening the nation’s understanding of the criminal justice system, especially in the areas where we have fallen short of our ideals,” President Jeremy Travis said in commending the honorees.


The awards, which CMCJ Director Stephen Handelman called “the Pulitzer Prizes of criminal justice journalism,” recognize the year’s best print and online justice reporting that has had a noteworthy impact on public policy or debate.


The winning entries will be posted on the Center’s Web site, www.jjay.cuny.edu/cmcj.


Bauer, an Oakland, CA-based freelance reporter and photographer, was arrested while traveling in Iran with two companions and spent nearly 26 months in prison, much of it in solitary confinement. Upon his release and repatriation, he began following stories of long-term solitary confinements in the California prison system, which led eventually to his award-winning report for Mother Jones. Bauer found that 500 California inmates had been in solitary for 10 years or more. In accepting his award, Bauer saluted “the people who see the fissures in our criminal justice system and are trying to change things.”


Chang worked for nearly a year on her award-winning series for The Times-Picayune, in which she exposed how a system of for-profit prisons in Louisiana has produced the world’s highest incarceration rate. “Committing a crime in Louisiana turns you into a dollar sign, not someone who has made a mistake,” she told ceremony attendees.


Simon was an energetic young reporter for the The Baltimore Sun in the 1980s when he began immersing himself in the gritty world of the city’s homicide squad. His reporting skills and street sense helped produce two nonfiction works, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. Homicide became the basis for a top-rated NBC drama that aired from 1993 to 1999, while The Corner was turned into an award-winning HBO miniseries. Simon also created the HBO series “The Wire” and “Generation Kill.”


Introduced at the awards ceremony by his longtime friend Lt. Terrence McLarney, former commander of the Baltimore homicide squad, Simon said he owed “a real debt of gratitude to anyone who would talk to me” – which was not a popular thing to do within the Baltimore police establishment. “There’s often an incredible amount of personal risk in talking to a reporter,” he said. He also congratulated the evening’s award winners for doing what he called “real journalism.”


The Guggenheim Symposium comprised two days of workshops, plenary sessions and panel discussions attended by journalists, practitioners and scholars from across the country, with topics that included prisoner re-entry; criminal justice funding; grass-roots crime prevention; restorative justice; pretrial detention, and more. The symposium also featured keynote presentations by Loretta E. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Mary Lou Leary, the acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the Office of Justice Programs.



Student Volunteers in Action


When President Barack Obama proclaimed January 21 as a national “Martin Luther King Day of Service," members of the John Jay community answered the call. Some 20 community service representatives under the auspices of Office of Community Outreach and Service Learning descended on the Red Hook Recreation Center in Brooklyn to help repair storm damage from Hurricane Sandy nearly three months earlier.


“Martin Luther King Day is a day you should value,” said Gloria Rodriguez, a senior criminal justice major from Brooklyn. “Not just stay at your house. You should take part.”


The Red Hook Community Justice Center, which community outreach director Declan Walsh described as his office’s “mother ship,” organized the cleanup and rehabilitation effort, one of nine such projects around the city coordinated by the Mayor’s Service Office. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in fact, visited the Red Hook cleanup site, talking with volunteers and posing for photographs.


The recreation center, located just four blocks from the Brooklyn waterfront, had sustained heavy flooding during the hurricane, and volunteers scraped and repainted walls in the basement and several multipurpose rooms. Alison Lazaro, a second-year graduate student in public administration, found herself daubed with a patina of paint scrapings. “My hair looked nicer earlier,” she joked.


The MLK Day of Service efforts by John Jay’s community service representatives were featured in an article on the DNAinfo.com Web site on January 21.



Mock Trial, but Real Rewards
Pre-Law Students Win Scholarships in CUNY Competition

Twenty six John Jay students who are participants in the Pre Law Institute recently won the second annual CUNY Invitational Regional Mock Trial Competition, and earned $78,500 in law school scholarships for their efforts.


The two-day competition, held January 24 and 25 at John Jay, pitted the PLI students against a team from Baruch College. The competitors were coached by law students from John Marshall Law School in Chicago and recent law school graduates, and were judged by Dean Rory Smith (pictured left) from John Marshall, law professor Alan Rosenbloom from Baruch, and three practicing attorneys.


“Our students won over 75 percent of the scholarship monies awarded and they had a wonderful time,” said Vielka Holness, Director of the Pre Law Institute. “Most of the John Jay participants were with me in Pre Law Boot Camp I and III in January, which means that, unlike their classmates, they have had just two days off during the semester break.”


Team winners were awarded $7,500 for each first-place team member; $5,000 for second place; $3,500 for third place, and $2,500 for each fourth-place team member. John Jay’s winning competitors were: Eulalia Sullivan (first place); Janet Brownell and Jewel Quintyne (pictured right) , Trushal Pandhi, Benedicta Darteh and Emilia Johnson, and Luisa Hernandez and Jessica Suarez (second); Stephanie Rivas and Lynn-Samantha Severe (third), and Feona Daniels and Valfrie Placencia (fourth).


In addition, individual awards for outstanding advocacy were presented to Jewel Quintyne (first place, $7,500); Ieasha Galloway and Jessica Suarez (third place, $3,000); Jonelle Casey and Emilia Johnson (fourth place, $2,500), and Trushal Pandhi, Stephanie Rivas and Kyle Roberts (fifth place, $1,500).


President Travis Takes to the Airwaves on Gun Control

John Jay President Jeremy Travis appeared recently on a special hour-long episode of “City Talk” on CUNY-TV, discussing the documentary film “Living for 32” and the ongoing national debate over gun control.


The show, which aired six times in late January and early February and is available on YouTube, is hosted by political science professor Doug Muzzio, co-director of the Center for the Study of Leadership in Government at Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs.


In a frank discussion that followed a screening of the film, Travis said he was “moved and deeply troubled” by the documentary, which focuses on Colin Goddard, a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that claimed the lives of 32 students and faculty members. “We’ve been here before,” said Travis. “We’ve had these national moments where we say ‘How can we live in a country that allows this to happen, and what can we do about it?’”


The National Rifle Association has become “more powerful than ever” over the past 20 years, Travis noted. Yet, in the wake of the December 14 shootings in Newtown, CT, he said, “One of the things we can do to honor the memory of those who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School is to use this opportunity to do what, quite frankly, we should have been doing all along, which is to enact some regulatory systems over this market,” most critically a system of universal background checks for would-be purchasers.


“We are up against a formidable opponent here, but the Newtown massacre was so horrific, and the reaction to it has been so profound that I have to be optimistic,” said Travis. He praised New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for “seizing the moment” and winning passage of legislation that “really put New York at the forefront” of the gun-regulation issue, but he went on to note: “States cannot do this alone; this requires a federal regulatory system.”



Remembering Newtown:
Event Series Honors Shooting Victims, Explores Gun Violence

A semester-long series of events at John Jay, from performing and visual arts to lectures and panel discussions, will pay homage to the 26 children and teachers who lost their lives in the December 14 shooting massacre in Newtown, CT, and spur meaningful dialogue and action.


“Remembering Newtown,” as the series on gun violence is titled, grew out of the collective input of students, faculty and staff, said President Jeremy Travis, who called the College community’s response “deeply gratifying.”


“No other academic institution in the world could so quickly pull together a program of such interdisciplinary reach, emotional depth and academic rigor,” Travis noted.


The “Remembering Newtown” series will kick off on March 11, when John Jay students will create the Remembering Newtown Expression Wall, where they will have the opportunity to put their thoughts into words and pictures. The wall will be situated in the widely traveled student corridor in the new building’s Lynn and Jules Kroll Atrium.


March events also include “Gun Control Legislation: Holding Gun Manufacturers Accountable, a panel discussion featuring current and former civic leaders. In April, former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert will give a lecture on gun violence, and performances will be staged by the Julliard School and the Aquila Theatre Company. Students will hold an open mic event that month, among other activities, to speak out against gun violence. The series will close with a special memorial concert honoring victims of Newtown and of gun violence nationwide.


All of the events are free of charge and open to the public. For a complete schedule, including dates, times and locations, visit the John Jay homepage at www.jjay.cuny.edu.



John Jay Scholars in the News

New York’s leading media outlets continue to keep John Jay scholars in the news as commentators on top stories and features. Some prominent recent examples include:


President Jeremy Travis, who served as a special criminal-justice adviser under former New York City Mayor Ed Koch in the 1980s, was among those cited in a recent analysis by The New York Times of the three-term mayor’s record.


The analysis and Travis’s comments appeared on February 2, one day after Koch died of congestive failure at age 88.
Travis praised the Koch administration for what he termed a “heroic” response to spiraling crime in the city, despite the police department being seriously understaffed as a result of the 1970s fiscal crisis. Gains were made by employing innovative techniques such as concentrating police efforts to address open-air drug markets, Travis said, but he conceded, “an under-resourced department is not effective in fighting crime.”


To read the complete article with President Travis’s comments, click here.


The December 10, 2012, issue of The New Yorker featured two articles that cited the expertise of John Jay faculty. A review of the critically applauded documentary film “The Central Park Five,” which tells the story of the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of five black and Latino teenagers for the beating and rape of a Central Park jogger in 1989, made particular mention of the contributions to the film by Distinguished Professor of Psychology Saul Kassin, a leading expert in the field of false confessions.


The so-called “Central Park 5” spent between 6 and 13 years in prison before a serial rapist confessed that he alone had committed the crime, leading to their convictions being overturned.


The New Yorker’s review called the film “perhaps the most devastating portrait of social inequality ever presented in a contemporary American documentary,” and singled out the “expert commentary by…social psychologist Saul Kassin.”


The same issue of The New Yorker includes an article by Rachel Aviv, “Netherland,” that explores the world of gay, homeless youth in New York City, citing research carried out by Professor Ric Curtis, chair of the Department of Anthropology, and his John Jay colleagues. Along with Professors Karen Terry (Criminal Justice), Kirk Dombrowski (Anthropology)) and Bilal Khan (Mathematics and Computer Science) and doctoral alumna Meredith Dank, Curtis has conducted an extensive and controversial investigation of underage teens who engage in what is known as “survival sex.”


Click here to read The New Yorker: www.newyorker.com.