July 28, 2014.

On behalf of LatinoJustice PRLDEF I express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the criminal justice visionary, Mr. Eddie Ellis. New York, and indeed the nation, lost an incredible advocate for justice, the rights of prisoners, and the rights of persons with former criminal histories.

A former Black Panther Mr. Ellis served 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit as a target of the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO. In prison he was instrumental in securing resources for college course instruction at Greenhaven Correctional Facility and then graduated with honors from Marist College, the New York Theology Seminary and the State University of New York. He went on to author numerous research and policy papers on the criminal justice system, visited prisons throughout the world, and counseled Presidents, legislators and foundations alike on all matters regarding the punishment industry. Most recently, Mr. Ellis was the founder and president of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions – a human justice think tank led by former prisoners – and the host and executive producer of WBAI Radio’s On the Count program – one of the most highly regarded programs on prison and criminal justice policy which enjoyed a major listenership in New York metropolitan area prisons.

Eddie Ellis was a guiding light for me as I began researching and litigating against the pernicious practice of felon disfranchisement in this country. The more I learned about the reach of the worst aspects of the punishment industry the more I appreciated the work of Mr. Ellis. One of his most recent campaigns was the move to raise the age of criminal liability in New York State above where it is now – at 16 years – an effort that I am fully committed to because of its damaging effects on Latino youth. I was a radio guest of his numerous times for this show On The Count and just two weeks ago while on the show with host Steven Mangual I thanked Eddie on the air knowing he was listening from home. It was an appropriate way to say goodbye.

The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions issued a beautiful statement to this fierce warrior and left all of us one of his quotes: “As for me I start from the proposition that no matter how bad things get, they can improve. The question is: How soon and to what extent? My job is to develop the next generation of leaders who will make tomorrow better than today for the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated, and everyone connected to that community of human beings.”

Rest in peace, Eddie Ellis.

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