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Rooting Out Racial Bias

Part One: 7th Annual Policy Summit in Pursuit of Justice

February 5, 2021 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am

About the event:

Earlier this year, the Harvard Law School released a study of disparities in sentencing, confirming what many already knew: that significant racial and ethnic bias is still present in our criminal justice system. The report also highlighted critical data quality issues that inhibited research efforts to pinpoint and confront problem areas.

During this session, a panelist of experts will revisit the topic of criminal justice information systems, charting progress on the data provisions signed into law in 2018, and comparing the commonwealth’s efforts to increase transparency and data collection to those ongoing in other states.

The Coalition will also present a new award in memory of the late Chief Justice Gants, who commissioned the Harvard Law study, and championed efforts to achieve equity in the criminal justice system.

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Welcome and Award Presentation:
Greg Torres, MassINC Board Chair

Keynote:

District Attorney Rachael Rollins, Suffolk County

Headshot of District Attorney Rachael Rollins

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is the chief law enforcement officer for Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Massachusetts. She is the first woman ever elected as District Attorney in Suffolk County and the first woman of color ever elected to serve in this role in Massachusetts.

Since taking office, Rollins has implemented humane and data-supported policies to keep Suffolk County safe. Policies that no longer criminalize mental health issues, substance use disorders, food and housing insecurities, and immigration status, instead focusing her limited resources on the most violent and serious crimes. Among some of her larger initiatives and policy implementations are her first in nation Discharge Integrity Team to help investigate officer involved shootings and allegations of excessive force.

 

Moderator:

Shira Schoenberg, Reporter, CommonWealth

Headshot of Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth reporterShira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. She previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state’s foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker.

Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association.

 

Panelists:

Kerry Collins, Undersecretary for Forensic Science and Technology

Kerry A. Collins serves as Undersecretary for Forensic Science and Technology within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. Her responsibilities include overseeing the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab, State 911 Department, Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, and the automated fingerprint identification system. She chairs the Forensic Science Oversight Board; State 911 Commission, and the Executive-Level Traffic Records Coordinating Committee, and serves as a member of the Medicolegal Commission. In close partnership with law enforcement agencies, Undersecretary Collins manages all forensic science and technological resources, appropriations, and grants.

Prior to her current appointment, Collins’ served as the legal counsel at the Massachusetts State Police crime laboratory as well as an assistant district attorney of nearly two decades in Middlesex County where she prosecuted major felony cases and supervised other attorneys.  

 

Representative Liz Miranda, 5th Suffolk District

Since elected in 2018, Elizabeth “Liz” Miranda has served as State Representative for the 5th Suffolk District of Roxbury and Dorchester.

Representative Miranda currently serves on the Joint Committee(s) on Community Development and Small Businesses, Public Safety and Homeland Security, Veterans and Federal Affairs, and the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

In her first term, Representative Miranda has filed and passed legislation to reform policing and save black lives, improve racial disparities in maternal health, promote environmental justice within disproportionately impacted communities, and ensure a just recovery for micro-to-small businesses most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the daughter of Cabo Verdean immigrants, Representative Miranda has been a tireless advocate for the Safe Communities Act and the Work and Family Mobility Act, while leading the fight for an equitable recovery that includes BIPOC workers.

 

Felix Owusu, Kennedy School of Government, Co-Author, Harvard Law Racial Disparities Study

Headshot of Felix OwusuFelix Owusu is a doctoral candidate in public policy at Harvard University, an Affiliate at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, a Fellow at the Lab @ DC, a Data Scientist at the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington DC, and until recently a Research Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program. He studies the application of law and bureaucratic processes in law enforcement agencies and their impacts across race and class.

 

Dr. Mikaela Rabinowitz, Director of Data, Research, and Analytics at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office; formerly the Director of National Engagement and Field Operations for Measures for Justice

Dr. Mikaela Rabinowitz is the Director of Data, Research, and Analytics at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. Prior to this, she was the Director of National Engagement and Field Operations for Measures for Justice. In this role, Dr. Rabinowitz worked with policymakers and criminal justice practitioners across the country to assess criminal justice data needs and provide recommendations for improvement. Dr. Rabinowitz’s book, Incarceration without Conviction: Pretrial Detention and the Erosion of Innocence in American Criminal Justice will be released in mid-2021.

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Learn more about the second session in our two-part series on the criminal justice system.