SALISBURY, N.C. — Equal Justice Now, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is working to improve community and police relations through panel discussions centered around bail reform and overpolicing.
On Thursday, March 23, Livingstone College will host national civil rights attorney Ben Crump, Equal Justice Now and several panelists for a discussion about the criminal justice system and issues that impact communities.
“Sometimes meeting in the middle is what is needed for actual progressiveness and actual change,” said Thomas Lucas with Equal Justice Now.
Equal Justice Now is a social welfare organization that advocates against false arrests, wrongful convictions and incarceration. Its goal in holding the panel at Livingstone College is to have conversations about bail and police reform.
“It’s imperative to us to make sure that people are knowledgeable about the bail system,” said Lucas. “Knowledgeable on what overpolicing is and how to combat it and how we can bring police departments and communities closer.”
Lucas has been with the organization since it started five years ago.
“As a young African American man, I always lived wanting there to be equal justice,” explained Lucas. “It’s always been in me to want to fight but with positivity, strength and nonviolence.”
The organization is bringing together panelists from all sides of the criminal justice system. Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden is one of them. He said these conversations are important to find out the needs of the people they serve, especially disadvantaged communities.
“We can’t arrest our way out of poverty and there are a lot of things that are causing extensive poverty in our community and are we providing enough resources to help our poverty-restricted neighborhoods?” asked McFadden.
He added that one important issue to him is that people leave his detention center ready to re-enter society with higher learning, business education and support. The hope is that, with these tools, they don’t find their way back behind bars.
“We want to have a warm hand-off to the community,” he continued. “And what does that look like? I should be able to call community resources… including houses of faith to accept these men and women back into their neighborhoods and support them. That’s part of the missing gap. When they leave the detention center where do they go from here and how are they supported?”
Lucas said there is a lot of work to be done to improve the criminal justice system and having these tough conversations are steps in the right direction.
“We don’t look to shape or shift our messaging… we tell it like it is,” said Lucas. “We place information onto the masses, look to educate and look to hold accountability where it should be held… whether it is the community or the system and many times it’s a little bit of both.”
The panel discussion will be held between 1pm - 5pm in Varick Auditorium. The event is free.
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