This conference, which took place on January 23, 2021, was presented by the Boston Debate League in partnership with Suffolk University and builds on the community forums of the Race, Equity and Policy Series as we explore the multiple facets of criminal justice reform.

The workshops during the first session examined The Justice System As It Is by exploring the inherent inequities within the criminal justice system, how the system impacts individuals and communities, and the effects of incarceration on individuals during and after their encounter with the criminal justice system. The workshops during the second session explored The Justice System As It Might Be by taking an aspirational view on what a reformed criminal justice system could look like and examining the practical next steps in pursuit of that change.

Click on the cards below to view the available recordings of the sessions.


Welcome and Opening Discussion (9:00am - 9:30am)

Mike Wasserman (Executive Director) and Jackney Joseph (Director of External Affairs) of the Boston Debate League welcomed attendees to the Race, Equity and Policy Series: Conference on Criminal Justice Reform, as we endeavored to explore the criminal justice system as it is and as it might be.

To prepare attendees for participation in the day's workshops, they led the audience in a brief morning breakout session to share what they hoped to take away from the day. This was followed by an overview of the day's agenda, logistics for navigating the event page and instructions for tech support.


The Justice System As It Is (9:30am - 10:30am)

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A dialogue on the Positive Youth Development Approach, how the juvenile justice system embraces it, and the barriers to applying this approach system wide.

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Personal and professional reflections from law enforcement on engaging communities, criminal justice reform, how the current system could change, and how it works to support the communities they serve.

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A discussion on the impact of mass incarceration and criminal justice reform initiatives from the perspective of a law enforcement agency and community member.


Break (10:30am - 11:00am)


The Justice System As It Might Be (11:00am - 12:00pm)

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A dialogue on reimagining the policies and resources needed to support individuals after incarceration and gang involvement.

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A discussion on how a Positive Youth Development Approach and other practices can reduce reliance on the juvenile justice system.

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A conversation on how evolving policing practices can advance criminal justice reform and transform relationships between police and communities.

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A discussion of practical and aspirational next steps to reduce and eliminate the impact of mass incarceration on communities.


Closing Keynote (12:00pm - 12:30pm)

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is the chief law enforcement official for Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop. She is the first woman to be elected to this position in Suffolk County history, and the first woman of color to ever serve as a Massachusetts district attorney. In this role, she has pledged to effect meaningful, substantive reform to the criminal justice system.

An attorney for 20 years with degrees from Northeastern University School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center, DA Rollins is a recipient of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association’s Trailblazer of the Year Award, was selected as Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly Attorney of the Year in 2018, and received the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Award from the Boston Branch of the NAACP. She is also a past president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, and was elected and served a three year term on the Boston Bar Association Council.