Latinxs From Around the Country Convene in California to Strategize and Mobilize for Criminal Justice Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 29th, 2018

CONTACT: Christiaan Perez, cperez@latinojustice.org , 212-739-7581

LOS ANGELES AND BAKERSFIELD, CA - This week advocates, academics and community members will gather in Los Angeles and Bakersfield for the 4th Annual national convening of Latinxs for criminal justice reform. This convening will also feature a preview of scenes from a work-in-progress film that LatinoJustice is developing in conjunction with esteemed director Carlos Sandoval.

Over the past couple of years, LatinoJustice has organized convenings of Latinxs addressing criminal justice reform in Washington DC, New York City, and Orlando, each with the goal of building a cadre of Latino/a advocates who can bring the nuanced Latino/a experience to the criminal justice debate. LatinoJustice has creates spaces where advocates, organizers, academics and impacted community members can engage in these discussions on equal footing while building a mutual understanding about these issues and developing strategies for action. This year the convening will continue to focus on the range of criminal justice issues while also elevating the challenges around police accountability by connecting directly with local campaign efforts in Bakersfield, a community that has one of the deadliest police forces in the country.

“America’s insatiable thirst for punishment in our criminal justice system targets, cages and stigmatizes Latinx communities in disproportionate and devastating ways,” notes Juan Cartagena, President & General Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The Latinx nascent, but growing, national response to these racialized policies is critical to securing transformative change for all impacted communities.” The Convening will be split into two different stages, first there will be a policy conversation at UCLA where practitioners and scholars from states and localities across the U.S. convene to discuss a range of issues including the intersections between criminal law and immigration status, Latino public opinion research on criminal justice, and the school to prison pipeline. This portion of the convening is co-sponsored by the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.

“For far too long, Latinos have been left out of critical policy debates, especially criminal justice reform. Twenty-first century reforms must integrate the needs of Latinos, who are both a youthful and growing demographic from California to the Carolinas. Cross-sector partnerships between researchers, advocates and practitioners are imperative to driving reform that makes sense for all Americans,” said Sonja Diaz, Executive Director of UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative

After the policy conversation we will have a preview of scenes from the film “Bad Hombres: Latinxs and the Criminal Justice System” by award-winning filmmaker Carlos Sandoval. This is a film that LatinoJustice is developing as part of series of videos to elevate Latino/a voices on criminal justice reform. This foundational film will provide context for the Latino/a experience in the criminal justice system and act as a conversation starter for the other videos that will focus on specific experiences and issues.

“Working on this film has been an emotional journey, not only because of the stories I encountered, but also because I grew up in a justice-impacted home. Today, I have family in law enforcement. So, I am hoping the film can create a space for powerful conversations that will lead us to work together on reforming a system that is, and has been historically, unjust to our Latinx community,” said Carlos Sandoval, director of “Bad Hombres: Latinxs and the Criminal Justice System.”

After this part of the convening, participants will go to Bakersfield, California to discuss the challenges around police brutality at a national level and as it relates to Bakersfield. Organizers in California came together to demand Justice for Kern County, the county where Bakersfield is located, after many of their loved ones were killed by the police. Local and national advocates will spend two days strategizing about ways to address police use of force and share some lessons learned about ways to secure police accountability. This portion of the convening is co-sponsored by Faith in the Valley.

“Given how much the issue of police misconduct has dominated our local, state, and national conversation, Kern County, and Bakersfield are the perfect backdrop in which to have a conversation about the both the criminalization of the Latinx community, and the need for law enforcement accountability and transparency. In Kern County there is not only a hunger for justice, but also a hunger for us to start a larger dialogue about redefining what Public Safety means in communities in which law enforcement creates a sense of terror more than protection. This collaboration between Latino Justice and Faith in the Valley is the beginning of a movement to bring more people into a deeply necessary, long overdue conversation about what latinx people are facing when it comes to Criminal Justice, so that we may also build in solidarity with black lives, and paint a larger picture about the plight of people of color in our country,” Josth Stenner, Kern Organizer, Faith in the Valley.

The film screening in Los Angeles is open to the public while the rest of the activities are closed, however, if you are interested in specific topics then participants can be available to the media upon request. The following sessions will also be livestreamed on LatinoJustice’s Facebook Page: “Latinxs in a Hyper-Racial Landscape: Public Opinion for 21st Century Criminal Justice Reform.” Thursday, May 31, 12:15 to 1:15 pm from UCLA in Los Angeles; “The Criminalization of Latinxs: Unpacking how Latinxs are ensnared in the Criminal Justice System & Strategies to Fight Back.” Friday, June 1, 10:00 am to Noon from Bakersfield.

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LatinoJustice PRLDEF, originally established as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) in 1972, is one of the foremost national nonprofit civil rights legal defense and education funds working to advance, promote, and protect the legal rights of Latina/os throughout the nation. Our work is focused on addressing systemic discrimination and ensuring equal access to justice in the advancement of voting rights, housing rights, educational equity, immigrant rights, language access rights, employment rights, workplace justice, and the discriminatory effects of the criminal justice system, seeking to address all forms of discriminatory bias that adversely impact Latina/os.

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