Please visit our YouTube channel for recordings of many of our past events.

Abolitionist Politics, Practices, and Horizons (Fall 2023)

Imagine a society without police, prosecutors, courts, and prisons: what does it look like? Over the last few decades, a growing abolitionist movement has been calling for the abolition of these institutions while offering alternative visions for creating safe and thriving communities, re-shaping public policy, and experimenting with building an infrastructure of care, support, stability, accountability, and healing from harm. Building on last year’s Myths of Public Safety theme, this fall we explored the theory and praxis behind abolition of the prison industrial complex.

For the Abolitionist Politics, Practices, and Horizons speaker series, we were joined by guests who have thought deeply about abolition, including many who have spent years studying, experimenting with, and enacting abolitionist politics and community safety initiatives that do not rely on surveillance, policing, prosecution, or incarceration. Through discussions about lived experience and organizing, innovative research, critical theory, and public policy we hope to guide policymakers, practitioners, advocates, researchers, and community members in envisioning new practices, procedures, and policies to bring about safe and thriving communities for all. How would our institutions, our communities, our relationships to one another, and our norms have to change to build safety outside of criminalization and punishment? Our intention is to inspire deeper thinking about research, policy, and ways of making sense of abolitionist project(s).

9/14/23: Global Advocacy Against Police Violence

Recent years have seen unprecedented protests against police violence, from the massive civil rights protests following the murder of George Floyd in the US to the historic #EndSARS protests in Nigeria. This event brings together advocates and activists from three continents for a conversation about civil-society-led strategies to combat police violence. 

2/27/23: A Conversation About Policing and Racial Justice
Myths of Public Safety: Parole (Spring 2023)

The theme of the 2022-2023 speaker series was Myths of Public Safety. Myths abound about what public safety is and how it is achieved. These myths have been the basis of efforts toward mass incarceration, aided in the destruction of lives and communities, and fed huge racial disparities—all the while, research shows, making the public less safe.

We were joined by guests who have helped to debunk these myths. Through discussions about both lived experience and innovative research, we hope to guide policymakers, practitioners, advocates, researchers, and community members in envisioning new practices, procedures, and policies that will bring about safe and thriving communities for all.

The Spring 2023 focus was Myths of Public Safety: Parole.

Myths of Public Safety: Pretrial (Fall 2022)

In Fall 2022 for the Myths of Public Safety: Pretrial speaker series, we were joined by experts to debunk public safety myths in the pretrial context. Together, we explored 1) the legal fiction that jail is merely “administrative” detention, 2) the harms of incarceration, 3) the strategic limits of using research to push back against fear-based myths, and 4) the possibilities of collective action to reduce the size and scope of the criminal legal system’s front end. Some of our speakers illuminated how the system fails to deliver on core precepts of “justice”—like the presumption of innocence, the right to counsel, or the right to a jury trial—while others closely examined how advocates and practitioners are working to implement evidence-based approaches while changing norms on the ground. 

In addition to our various themed speaker series (e.g., Reimagining Community Safety or Myths of Public Safety), we also host occasional events on special topics which allow us to benefit from presentations from scholars/researchers/practitioners/community organizers/activists whose work lies outside of these specific topics.

4/13/22: Rethinking Street Safety: Can Removing Policing and Prosecution of Traffic Violations Make Us Safer?
Reimagining Community Safety (2020-2021)

Reimagining Community Safety: A Program in Criminal Justice Speaker Series was an effort to better understand from the perspective of practitioners, policymakers, community leaders and activists, and academics 1) the long-standing nature and roots of this seemingly intractable problem, 2) why reforms have generally failed to achieve desired results, 3) what a different approach to community safety looks like, 4) what ongoing efforts in communities across the country hold promise for real and sustained change, and 5) what considerations should guide our evaluations of these efforts. Taken together, the speakers’ contributions represent a kind of narrative arc, ending primarily with community leaders and activists pointing the way to real and sustained change. 

4/7/22: A Perspective on Policing from Across the Pond: The Promise of Minimalism in British Policing
3/11/21: Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem – Film Screening and Panel Discussion

On March 11, 2021 we co-hosted a live stream screening and panel discussion of Racially Charged: America’s Misdemeanor Problem, inspired by HLS professor Alexandra Natapoff’s book Punishment Without Crime: How our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal

The panel included:

  • Alexandra Natapoff, Lee S. Kreindler Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Robert Greenwald, Director, Brave New Films
  • Rachael Rollins, Suffolk County District Attorney
  • Udi Ofer, Director, Justice Division and Deputy National Political Director, ACLU
  • Sandra Smith, Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice & Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Chris Lollie, musician, St. Paul, MN, featured in the film

#BlackLivesMatter Across the Americas: Black Youth Organizers and the Struggle for Racial Justice

October 29, 2020

In the second event in the What Justice Looks Like series, we spoke with activists from Black youth-led movements from the US and Latin America, leading the struggle against racial injustice, from police violence to structural racism and disparate effects of the COVID pandemic on racialized and low-income communities.

October 8, 2020

The first event of the “What Justice Looks Like” discussion series was a conversation with mothers from across the Americas who, after losing children to police and state violence, have become powerful activists fighting for justice and institutional changes to end state violence affecting Black, indigenous, and low-income youth.