Building common ground panel led by Louis L. Reed (left to right), featuring Andy Potter, founder of One Voice United national campaign, Renee Williams, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime and Antoinette Jones, community mentor coach and social justice advocate. This panel discussed moving people from empathy to action and what that looks like.

By DeAnna Giles,
Special to the AFRO

The United States of America has the largest prison population in the world. And the American criminal justice system continues to incarcerate minorities at a disproportionate rate.

According to The Sentencing Project, Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons nearly six times the rate of White Americans. The time spent behind bars equates to decades of freedom stolen from the individual and their families.

To highlight the need for criminal justice reform, Dream Corps JUSTICE recently held the sixth annual Day of Empathy.

Dream Corps JUSTICE recently held the sixth annual Day of Empathy to highlight the need for criminal justice reform.
Dream Corps Founder Van Jones (left) speaks with Glenn E. Martin (right) about the experiences of incarceration in the community.
(left to right) Cynthia Brown, Empathy Network advocate, Tina Baker, senior organizer at Dream Corps JUSTICE and Ronald Hummons, Empathy Network manager from Ohio.

Former incarcerated individuals spoke out about the justice system and how it impacted their lives. Members of the New York Police Department participated as well. Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), whose father was incarcerated for 14 years, shared the pain and resentment she felt from growing up without a father.

Those attending the event were able to participate in a virtual reality experience showing what it is like to be incarcerated. This was an opportunity for people to empathize with those who have been incarcerated and walk in their shoes.

The Dream Corps have fought to pass the EQUAL Act Passage, a defense against the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act which created a higher penalty for crack as opposed to powder cocaine. The Act would further reduce the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine.

Recently, the bill passed the House of Representatives and included 11 republican sponsors. According to Janos Marton, Dream Corps JUSTICE national director, 8,000 people could go home as a result of the passing.

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