UC OIP forum address systemic racism, wrongful convictions in judicial system

Issues of racial fairness and wrongful convictions in America’s criminal justice system took center stage at a virtual forum held this month by the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. Ohio Court News covered the Nov. 20 “Black Robes, Black Lives: The Duty of Courts to Understand and Address Systemic Racism” event.

“There is no value in racism,” Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the forum’s keynote speaker, told the virtual gathering, which included scores of law students.

“As (the late U.S. Supreme Court) Justice Thurgood Marshall explained, ‘Racism separates, but it never liberates. Hatred generates fear. And fear, once given a foothold, blinds, consumes and imprisons. Nothing is gained from prejudice. No one benefits from racism,’ ” she said.

The forum held via remote technology was designed to offer perspectives on racial fairness problems that courts face, along with potential solutions.

That the OIP is addressing system racism isn’t “surprising” to followers of the OIP, Pierce Reed, the OIP’s program director for policy, legislation and education, told the crowd. The OIP works to exonerate the wrongly convicted and reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

 O’Connor discussed an initiative she’s promoting to develop a statewide criminal database to track racial fairness across Ohio criminal justice system.  She urged law students to remain hopeful, and to help reform a broken system.

“What do I say to people who are in college and law school and looking forward to a career in the criminal justice system?” O’Connor told students. “The justice system as a whole, I see it for what it is, with all of its imperfections and all of its benefits. Seize upon what is productive and what we do well, and be part of the change.”

Read the full story here

Watch a recap of the forum here

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