COPS Conference 2012 -- Glenn E. Martin

Uploaded by TheJusticeDepartment on 08.01.2013


Glenn E. Martin: Good afternoon.

I love to compete with lunch.

So, I've been thinking about this opportunity for the last
month or so, and what sort of speech I would write and so
on, because of the importance of this opportunity.

And I decided, actually, not to write a speech and to just
produce an outline to sort of help me with my

Because I think it's much more important for me to come
across as extremely genuine in this conversation as opposed
to being thorough.

And so that's a little bit of a risk for me so, sort of,
bear with me here, but I hope you'll find the conversation
to be worth it.

I assume that if you guys wanted someone to come up here
and talk about policing that you would have brought an
expert in policing or someone in criminology or someone who
knows policing models, and that's not who I am.

And I do know what I do know something about, which is
organizational culture, managing people, redemption,
transformation, stigma, challenging one's self and
challenging others, building leadership, looking at things
in a historical context, and providing hope and the value
of hope.

So I'd like to start out by thanking Director Melekian for
his own leadership at the COPS Office.

His career has shown tons of evidence of valor and courage,
but his leadership now at the COPS Office shows tremendous
vision and I think an appetite for risk that you don't
normally see in government and leadership.

And it's something that I appreciate as an advocate,
someone who creates a space for himself and his staff to
think outside the box and to be extremely innovative to
challenge the norms and to ask the tough questions about
what's working, what's not working, and where is there room
for improvement.

He's supported by very intelligent and committed staff,
namely Katherine McQuay, who I have had a chance to work
with, and Zoe Mentel, who, I am sure, is somewhere here in
this room, and other folks on staff at the COPS Office.

The role I've played in conjunction with the COPS Office
is as part of the National Network for Safe Communities,
where the COPS Office is working in collaboration with
David Kennedy and other folks from John Jay College of
Criminal Justice.

And there are many police chiefs in that space --
researchers and policymakers and advocates like myself
disguised as service providers.

I'm always pleased to have the opportunity to be in that
space, although it's always a bit of an awkward space for
me, although it shouldn't be.

So I've been doing this work for 10 years now as an
advocate, as a service provider working on re-entry issues,
and it actually amazes me the lack of opportunities I have
to directly engage law enforcement.

So that's another reason today's opportunity is something I
wouldn't have missed for the world.

And to prove that, I had dental surgery 3 days ago, and I'm
still standing here.

So the last time I had this many people in law
enforcement interested in what I had to say there was an
indictment pending.
[ Laughter ]

For those of you who missed that joke, you
should have Googled me before I got here.

But the fact that I am standing here, again, speaks to the
courage and commitment of this office and its leadership.

So I'd like to contextualize my remarks by telling you a
little bit more about myself and a little bit about the
agency I work for.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York -- Bedford
If you know anything about Bedford Stuyvesant, for a very
long time it was a community that was very impoverished and
disproportionately impacted by high crime.

I am the product of an interracial couple:
My dad is white;
my mother is black.

My father was a police officer for many years before he

I have a brother, an older brother, who is currently a
federal corrections officer.

I grew up in stark poverty in Brooklyn on public

I have a younger brother who was in and out of the criminal
justice system for almost his entire life -- until recently
he seems to have sort of gotten it together.

I spent 6 years in prison myself for robbery, and I've
been home for 10 years, so I've been doing this work pretty
much from the day I walked out of prison.

I was lucky enough to earn a liberal arts degree while I
was in prison, and I'll talk a little bit about that
because that opportunity has diminished significantly for
people in prison.

I have advocated to change laws and policies in many states

I have successfully advocated on the federal level for
change in policies to remove barriers to reentry facing
people with criminal records.
I have worked on issues of employment, in housing, in
education, and voting rights.

I've been blessed to have the opportunity to have company
with people like Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and actor
Richard Gere, and Desmond Tutu, and A.G. Holder
and a bunch of other folks who have been influential
in my own thinking about the work, but who have shared with
me their thoughts about criminal justice in this country.

But I also put a lot of equal value on the work I do on
the ground, so I make a lot of trips to D.C., I do a lot of
really high-end work working with policymakers and members
of Congress and so on.

But to stay grounded, I try to find myself spending just as
much time in the communities that are impacted, at the
storefront churches in those communities.

I happen to live in Harlem, Central Harlem, one of the
seven communities most impacted by the criminal justice
system in New York.

So conceivably, I could live anywhere in New York at this
point -- I do relatively well -- but at the same time I
deliberately choose to live in a community where, when I
walk out of my front door, I am reminded of why I wake up
every day and work these long hours, and why we all sort of
work hard to increase public safety.

I sit on the community board in the community so I'm very
aware of the community's thoughts about crime.

I'm reminded that even poor communities that lack resources
care about public safety, and how oftentimes they may not
have all of the answers and may not realize that there are
more than one way to get to public safety, and maybe asking
folks like the folks in this room for quick solutions to
long-term problems.

So doing the work on the ground really keeps me

About 4 1/2 years ago I landed at the Fortune Society, and
so I'll talk a little about the Fortune Society because I
think it will add additional context toward the remarks
I'll make toward the end of my presentation.

So 46 years ago, there was a play called Fortune and Men's
Eyes, and it was written by a gentleman named John Herbert
who had done time in prison, and he wrote this play to tell
his story of being involved in the criminal justice system

and his experience in prison and how difficult it was for
him to transition back into society.

And David Rothenberg, who was a theater agent at the time
for very important people like Elizabeth Taylor and a
number of other big-name stars, recognized this to be an
amazing play, although it was a true story, including the
things like the fact that this gentleman was raped while he
was in the criminal justice system.

And David invested his life's savings in this play, $12,000
at the time.

And the play went off Broadway, and David ended up on a
national show called The David Susskind Show.
And, if you know it, you don't have to raise your hands
because it will say something about how old you are.

It's a show very similar to the David Letterman show.

And so the next day after being on that show, David shows
up at his office in midtown Manhattan in the theater
district, and there's about 60 people waiting on a winding
staircase for him -- mostly people who had been involved in
the criminal justice system -- saying, "I saw you on
television last night, I heard about your play, I really
want to get my life together, but here are the barriers
that I'm facing, can you help me?"
And David, being the extremely intelligent
person that he is, recognized that he really
knew nothing about the criminal justice system, and
he asked two of the men on line to serve as volunteers to
in turn help the other folks on line.

And that was the beginning of the Fortune Society, 46 years
ago, as a volunteer, self-help advocacy organization.

So if you fast-forward 4 1/2 decades to where we are
today, a third of our board is fomerly incarcerated;
that's very deliberate, our bylaws require that.

We have 170 people on staff -- half of them are formerly
incarcerated as I said in the beginning, present company

And that's a huge part of what works at Fortune, and I'm
going to talk a bit about what works.

We occupy 65,000 square feet of program space in Long
Island City, New York, and we have another 20,000 square
feet of program space in Harlem.

We provide an array of programs that have all been
constructed around the needs of people who have been
involved in the criminal justice system.

So, basic education, up to GED.
We have a program that also helps people get into college
and navigate the college process.

We have an employment program that does what's called
"soft skills training,"
-- the idea of showing up to work on time,
dressing properly, how do you deal with work place
problems, and so on -- and then hard-skills training.
Because with the economy being what it is, we found that
soft-skills training, although we had done it for 3 or 4
decades, just really wasn't enough for our folks to be
competitive in the labor market, where unfortunately they
are coming up against people who have Ph.D.'s and Master's
degrees that are competing pretty much for the same job.
We always say our folks are in the back of the line when
you think about employment, and in 2008 the line just got
that much longer.

And so the question is, how do we better prepare our
folks for employment?
Because statistics do say that 83 percent of people who
have violated are unemployed at the time of violation, on
parole, or probation.
So there's a huge correlation between employment and
reduced recidivism, employment and self-esteem, employment
and health benefits, and all these other things that are
tied inextricably to employment.

We have a family services program because a lot of people
lose connections with their family while they are
incarcerated and, to be quite honest, we'll never have the
resources it takes to serve the 700,000 people coming home
from prison nationally every year, or the 25,000 leaving
state prison in New York coming back to New York City, or
the 108,000 admissions that we see on Riker's Island each
year, the second largest jail in the United States.

We have drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services.

Probably more importantly, out of the 3,000 people we see
per year, we do alternatives to incarceration.

So we work on both sides of the system, we work on helping
people who are coming out of the system, and that's about
2,500 people, and then we have about 500 mostly young folks
where we have a presence in the courts, and we work with
the judges and with the prosecutor and defense attorney to
identify people who would be better served in the community
where there is no diminishing of public safety.

So the idea is trying to get people engaged in a rigorous
program that gives them education, employment, and those
sorts of things; keeps them out of prison; and, hopefully
if they are successful, they get a non-incarcerative

But we very much recognize that there is the opportunity
for people to fail in the program and end up right back in
That's why we are very careful to target people who are
actually facing a year or more in jail or prison, because
we don't want to engage in what's called net-widening:
pulling the person out of the system, having them fail, and
and then suddenly they are facing prison time.

But we've done it for 3 1/2 decades; we've sort of figured
out how to make it work.
A big part of it is that we have a prosecutor running the
program, a former prosecutor, and so that helps us to do a
better job of gauging who's really on a track to go to jail
or prison.

We also do housing.
So in 2002, we recognized that, as much as our clients were
trying to get their lives together and stabilize and engage
in treatment, that the lack of stable and affordable
housing was derailing that process.
And so we purchased a piece of property in Harlem,
affectionately referred to as "the Castle."
It is a beautiful gothic structure
that looks like a castle and houses
62 people who were formerly incarcerated at any
given point and provides them transitional housing and
slowly moves them out into the community into

We do drug and alcohol screening on a daily basis and so
But more importantly, even though there is no waiting, even
though there is no period of time that they can be at the
Castle, you find that people recognize ultimately that it's
such an amazing opportunity that they make space for the
person coming behind them.
And so, so don't lose sight of some of the words please,
"hope" and "opportunity."
In fact, when people talk about my story, they say,
"Well Glenn, you must be the exception right?
I mean who goes from 6 years in prison for robbery to where
you are today?"
I always remind people that I'm not
exceptional; I was just exposed to exceptional
opportunities and, hopefully, I can show you evidence of
that throughout my presentation.

Someone instilled hope in me and I'll give you evidence of
that, and a lot of people created opportunity for me and it
didn't always mean months and months or years and years of
interaction with me, sometimes the interaction was as short
as the time it takes to, for instance, stop and frisk a

So I'm going to give you evidence of that, hopefully before
I finish.

So, a little bit about who our clients are, because I
think that people have their own perception of what people
look like who are involved in the criminal justice system.

A lot of our folks -- if you think about communities that
are impacted by crime, heavily impacted by crime, then
you're probably talking about the same communities that are
heavily impacted by victimization, because most people
commit crimes right in the communities where they live.

I think one difference is that most of the people in this
community don't have access to the health care resources
and mental health resources to deal with the trauma of
being the victim of crime or a person who witnesses violent

And all the evidence points to the fact that unaddressed
trauma manifests itself in violent-behavior offense:
the person who is the victim becoming the offender.

And so we constantly recognize, that at Fortune that the
majority of people that walk through our door are at some
point in their lives the victim of crime.
Although we recognize that they have also committed a
crime, we don't lose sight of the fact that there is
trauma there that needs to be dealt with.

They come from high-crime neighborhoods, high-poverty

Many of them have dealt with multiple incarcerations, low
I'm a firm believer that a lot of the people ending up in
the criminal justice system in the United States are the
product of our failed educational policies, and that is
clearly evident from the people who come through the door
at the Fortune Society.

Many of them are saddled with debt.

We are moving in the direction of creating a lot of
statutes that create mandatory fines and fees for people
involved in the criminal justice system, but if you couple
that with the fact that the majority of the people in the
criminal justice system are poor, what you end up with,
unfortunately -- although it feels really good to say these
people are going to sort of pay for their crime and to be
tough -- you actually end up with people who are in a
bit of a debtor's prison even after they are released from
prison and trying to get their lives back together.

If you know anything about employment these days, employers
do not only do background checks, which 80 percent of large
employers do and 40 to 60 percent of medium employers do,
but they also do credit checks, so it's just another sort
of strike against our clients dealing with the liens that
result from not paying the fines and fees that they

Many of them are addicted.

They come through the door with what we call the
"prison face."
All of the behaviors that people adopt to be able to
survive in prison are mostly the same behaviors that will
allow them to fail in society.

So think about it: If you are in prison, the idea of sort
of being soft doesn't work right?
The idea of building relationships has a negative
connotation to it.
So people come through the door with all of these defense
mechanisms that take a while for them to sort of ease away
When I think about the Castle, where we house people,
even if I've not been to the Castle for months, and I'm not
sure exactly who's living there at that time, if I just walk
through the living quarters and take a look at the lockers
-- because we give everyone a lock for their locker --
I can tell who just got there and who's been there the
Because the people who just got there, everything is
locked, and the people who have been there the longest have
recognized that they don't need the locks, that it's a safe
environment, that they don't have to be so defensive.
But it takes a while for people to get rid of the prison

Ninety-eight percent of the people who come through the
door are people of color, 88 percent are men; many of them
have a lack of trust for government.
It's not just law enforcement; it's many and all branches of
government if you will.
Many have been involved in the court system, the family
court system, Administration for Children's Services, and
so on, all throughout their lives and have gained a
mistrust for government more generally.

Many are learning individual responsibility for the first

But the majority of them come through the door with a
desire to change, and we try to recognize that at Fortune
-- just the fact that they show up at our front door really
says a lot.
To get a person who's been committing crime for many, many
years throughout their lives to show up at the door of a
place like the Fortune Society says a lot about their
thinking process and what got them to the door.

And even the people who are mandated to Fortune, we are
very clear at Fortune about not holding the hammer over a
person's head as the way to get them to do the right
They know it's there -- we're talking about folks who their
entire lives have had the hammer held over their heads.

So what we tell people actually, even the people who are
mandated there by judges and facing time if they don't do
well, is that you still have a choice.

And it's something they're not used to being told, that you
have a choice, that you know what the penalties are for not
being here, but still you have a choice.
You do not have to be here.
And when you're walking down the door, the hall, and you
might be cursing, and your pants may be hanging down, and
you have your hat on, we're not going to say, "Take that
hat off or I'll tell the judge and you'll get locked up,"
because they're used to hearing that.

And there's other things that we do to get them to respond.
And so a correction officer visited me at the Fortune
Society a couple of weeks ago shortly after I visited
Riker's Island, and he said, "What are you guys doing
different than what we are doing?" He said, "These are the
same folks who are in Riker's a couple of weeks ago,
they're in gangs, they're fighting each other, they're
cutting each other.
What are you guys doing differently?"
So, I gave some thought to that
for today's presentation, and some of the
things that we do.
Number one: Respect.

Every new staff member that comes through the door at
Fortune goes through our new employee breakfast, and I
think the strongest message at that one-hour breakfast is
when we wrap up and we say to people you need to treat
everyone who walks through the door at the Fortune Society
the way you would want your family member treated if they
walked through the door at the Fortune Society.

That's number one.
Number two is we have an extremely low threshold for

Unfortunately a lot of service providers are very driven by
their contracts, and so when people come through the door
there's questions about:
How long have you been sober?
Are you HIV-positive?
Do you have a mental health issue?
All these sorts of things that, you know, we're a bit bound
by with our contracts, but we have recognized that
that is not what works about our model.
So every single person who walks through the door at
Fortune gets services whether we have a contract that fits
their needs or not.
So very low threshold for services.

No exclusion based on criminal record.

So we do not only serve non-violent offenders, we do not
exclude sex offenders, we do not exclude people with some
of the most serious convictions.
In fact, because we have limited resources, we actually
target people with the most serious convictions.

So if you look at the Castle, the housing that I mentioned,
most of the people who live there have done 20 or more
years in prison.

And obviously to do 20 or more years in prison you either
have a serious drug conviction under the Rockefeller, the
former Rockefeller drug laws, or you have a manslaughter or
murder conviction.

But, our experience is that those people become the anchor
of that community, and that people change, and those people
change, and we've seen evidence of them change, and we
should be targeting our resources where we can have the
most impact.

The other thing is cultural competency.

Half the agency being formerly incarcerated, I cannot tell
you how that plays out in terms of a very organic mentoring
model developing.

For instance, people walk by my office -- I have one of the
larger offices in the facility, it's in an area where the
executive row is, if you will, but very deliberately we
made all of those offices of glass so that they are very
inviting, so that clients don't feel intimidating about
looking into the office
or speaking to someone in the office.
It never fails, every couple of weeks, I get a client who's
on that row, and he looks into my office and he may be
reading some of things on the wall and so on, and I call
him in and I start the conversation with him, and you can
just see that's he's a bit disconnected like,
"Who is this lawyer guy trying to tell me what to do?"

And then half way through the conversation,
when I tell him that I did time in prison
and that just 10 years ago I was sitting where
he's sitting, how the conversation changes and how suddenly
that person is visiting my office every week until they
successfully complete the program.
So cultural competency is extremely important.
And I think when we think about law enforcement, I think
we should be thinking about cultural competency.
And cultural competency for us doesn't just mean you've
done time in prison, that's not enough.

It means that you know something about the population, that
when you see certain behaviors that you create a space to
think really deeply about what those behaviors mean, and
that you don't suddenly attach thoughts to that behavior
that may not be accurate.

I never forget doing an employer study many years ago,
where this employer who was in a focus group said,
"You know I don't hire guys who wear saggy pants,
because saggy pants means that they're in to hip hop;
and if they're into hip hop, they're into violence;
and if they're into violence,
they're probably selling drugs, and I don't want that in my
place of employment."
And just watching how going from
saggy pants all the way down that road reminds me of the
value of the cultural competency that we have at the
Fortune Society, so much so that we wrote a toolkit on it
called "Employing Your Mission," and we were lucky enough
to have Attorney General Holder actually help us launch
that particular toolkit.
And it's for other agencies to see more value in hiring
their clients.

We prioritize people who fail in our program.

If you know anything about people involved in the criminal
justice system, you pretty much know they rarely ever get
it right the first time.

When people talk about my story, many people make the
assumption like, "Oh he did one thing wrong and he went to
prison and he did 6 years, he came out, and he changed his
Like everyone else who ends up in prison with a
6-year gig, pretty much, there was a lot that preceded
that, right?
There was a lot of interaction with the criminal justice
system that sort of led up to that sentence.

What we recognize at Fortune is that people don't go from
committing crime and doing drugs and those sort of things,
to doing the right thing.
It's not very linear.
It actually looks a lot like this.
And so you have to make space for the fact that people end
up out here, and when they come back you have to create a
space to reinvite them.
If a person gets kicked out of our program even for violent
behavior -- which is the one thing we don't tolerate, we
have zero tolerance for violent behavior -- the truth is
that when they come back, we will create a space for that
person because we know it works.

Some of our most successful stories are people who have
been involved in the criminal justice system 15, 20, 25
times and that when they finally figured it out and they
needed help, they remembered how inviting Fortune was.

Even when they were coming to Fortune just to play us, just
to get the Metro card to sell it and go get drugs, when
they finally hit rock bottom and they're ready to turn
their lives around, they know that we've created a space
for them to come back, and it works.

It's a big part of what works at the Fortune Society.

We treat people with dignity, even if they don't see it
when they walk through the door, they don't see themselves
in the future; we help them to see themselves in the
I can't tell you how many people walk through our door and
have no sense of what their life is going to look like 2, 3
months from now, much less a year or 2 or 3 years.

We actually have a program where we help people do
gardening, and the idea is that if you plant a seed you
have to be around to see that seed flourish into something
later on as a way to get clients to think of themselves
in the future.

We have a program at Fortune for people on staff,
everyone, but we know -- so the idea is that if you put a
dollar into your retirement, the agency matches it with
like $150.
Huge incentive, and the people who were formerly
incarcerated who are on staff rarely take the agency up on
A big part of that is they have been trained to not think
about themselves many, many years in the future.
And the question is how do you move people away from that?
You know you always talk about people in the criminal
justice system being involved in immediate gratification?
Well guess what, that becomes a behavior that is habitual.
You end up thinking about everything in the short term.
And the question is, how do you break people out of that?
We spend a lot of time working on that at the Fortune

But, we're also still very much an advocacy organization,
and it's the reason that I came to Fortune to help launch
the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy.

What we do there is we work on the systemic issues that
affect our clients.

It's easy to say that our clients need to have individual
responsibility, but there has to be a recognition that not
everyone has the same opportunities to engage in individual
responsibility, and a lot of that breaks down along lines
of race and class.

We work on issues of -- so as you think about mass
incarceration in the United States, I think for some people
the assumption is that we sort of been locking people up at
the same rate forever, when the truth is that it's been
pretty linear, and then you have the end of the civil
rights era and you have this huge spike in incarceration in
the United States, and you have not just incarceration but
what's called "collateral consequences":
the idea that if you have a criminal record
you can't work here, you can't vote here,
you can't get a job here, you can't get
certification here, you cannot get financial aid here,
you cannot get public assistance here.

And it's prevalent over the last 40 years.

In our attempt to be extremely tough on crime, we have
created a self-fulfilling prophecy of people cycling back
into the criminal justice system repeatedly, because even
though people come out with all intention of doing the
right thing, they find themselves up against insurmountable
I came out of prison with an Associate's degree; I came
out of prison gung-ho to do the right thing.
I had housing stability.
I had contacts.

I'm somewhat well spoken, I like to think, and I visited
35 different employers, most of which denied me on the spot
because of the felony conviction.

And the ones who did hire me, most of the time, by the time
I got home, had either recognized that they didn't look
closely enough at the application, or that they might have
had a conversation with someone else at the organization
and rescinded the offer.

Thirty-five different employers in about a month's period.

And so, our clients, unfortunately, when they are faced
with that experience, revert back to the behavior that
they're used to and find themselves right back in the
criminal justice system.
Very self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will.
So some of the issues we worked on.
So recently, I spent a lot of time here in D.C.
working with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to
pass a directive that tells employers nationally that you
cannot have a blanket policy of denying employment based
solely on a criminal record, because there are so many
people of color involved in the criminal justice system
that that policy ends up violating Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act.
So we're proud of that work.

We work on issues of Pell Grants.
People in prison back in 1994 were denied access to federal
grants and loans to go to college.

And it meant that systemic college in prison in the United
States was removed in 1994 and really has not returned at
the level that it was prior to it.
Obviously, as a recipient of a college education, I put
huge value in providing education to people in prison.
Voting rights.

States differ in whether or not they give voting rights
back to people in prison.
You want to figure out a way to get people to reoffend?
Marginalize them.
Make them feel as though they are not a part of the social
Taking away a person's right to vote, that is one of the
best ways to do that.
Our clients always say to me, "You know, maybe my voting is
not important, maybe it's not an important thing for me to
do anyhow."
And I always say to them, "If it's not that important,
then why would they take it away from you?"
Like, there has to be value in it.
So part of it is getting people to recognize the value of
the vote, but that applies across America.
I don't think that's just people involved in the criminal
justice system.
But one thing I do know that it's really easy to commit
crime when you think nobody gives a damn, when you think no
one is watching, when you think you're not part of the
At sentencing, you know, we have this whole procedure where
we take away people's rights and we sort of knock them down
a couple notches, and we put them in prison, and we tell
them that all these things they cannot do.

And think about it: We have no equal ceremony that bring
people back up post-incarceration.

So we leave people with that reminder that you have
committed a crime, you've violated the social contract, and
there is almost no way for you to get back here.

And voting is so inextricably tied to that feeling.

We're working on replicating our housing upstate New York
with a grant from New York State.

And one of the other things we're working on is policing
issues -- namely stop and frisk.
Anyone here from New York?

Okay, I think I can make it to that door before you make it
to me.
[ Laughter ]

I'll be kind, I'll be kind, I promise.

So we work on issues of stop and frisk.

So I don't want to spend time debating stop and frisk and
whether it works.

If you want to know my position on it, look at my Twitter

I mean, first of all, at the Fortune Society one thing
people value about us -- you know, Denise O'Donnell,
Director O'Donnell is here in the audience.

When she was at the Division of Criminal Justice Services
in New York and served as the Secretary of Public Safety,
I'd like to think that we were one of her partners in the
work that she was doing to increase public safety.

That's part of our strategy at Fortune, is that it really
does take a village to get this right, and so we work
extremely closely with government, including law
enforcement, including NYPD.

I like the opportunity to be able to pick up the phone and
say to Commissioner Kelly or one of his deputies that we
have a client that we think was unfairly treated and we'd
like for you or someone to take a look at it and, and I'm
happy that we have that access, and I'm happy that we are
able to propose pilot projects to NYPD and have them give
it serious consideration.
At the same time, we're critical about stop and frisk and
how it impacts our clients.
And I'm sensitive to the tough
job of law enforcement.

In many ways, you're asked to solve cancer, and then we
stick you in the emergency room and say wait for the bodies
to come in.

Your job is extremely tough.

You're in neighborhoods that are mired in poverty with
social problems and failed policies.

You're sort of at the end of the game, if you will, and
asked to solve many of those problems.

But that's not to say there's a role that you can't play,
that's just to say that, you know, the impact of over
policing and over enforcement and mass incarceration and
collateral consequences -- some of the things I spoke about
-- all play into this existing community dialogue about the
role of law enforcement in the lives of poor people of
color, right?
So that's not an indictment of law enforcement, that's
just the reality of some of these communities, that when
they think about law enforcement, their thinking about law
enforcement is ingrained in this life-long conversation
about racism and classism and oppression.

You have people who live in these communities who lived
through Jim Crow or learned about it from their parents who
were active in the Civil Rights era and the fight for equal
rights, and who are now living through mass incarceration
and the collateral consequences that stem from it, and who
recognize that, unfortunately, increasingly in the United
States, criminal record-based discrimination serves as a
surrogate for race-based discrimination.

And that's a reality for these communities.
The fact that if an employer says, "I don't hire anyone
with a felony," and we know that one in three black men are
going to have a felony before the age of 24, I think it is.

What does that mean?
How does that policy translate?
Whether you mean it or not, whether that is your goal and
your purpose, or not.
Your goal could be just public safety, safety in the work
place, safety of other staff members, and so on, but we
have to continue to remind ourselves that the way these
things play out, play right into the community's dialogue.
I was lucky enough to be involved in a study with
Princeton University a few years ago called
"Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets."
And we hired 13 young men
-- white, black, and Latino --
to go out into the New York City
entry-level labor market and apply for jobs posing as
if they have a criminal record, on teams.
So you'd send out two blacks, two whites, white, black,
Latino, to apply for these jobs and then come back to the
office and talk about what experiences they had and whether
it was a positive outcome -- as in they got the job or they
got a call back from the employer.

And I'll never forget the black tester coming back
repeatedly saying, "Oh, there was no job, they had already
given away the job."
And then the Latino tester comes back
and he says the same thing,
"Sorry the job is already taken."

And then the white tester comes back at the end of
the day and says, "I got the job."

And they just sat there and said,
"What do you mean you got the job?
There is no job."

And he's like, "No, I got the job, look
here's evidence, I got the job."

And it happened repeatedly.
We did 3,500 visits and the outcome of the study was that a
white person with a criminal record has a better chance of
getting a job than a black person who's equally qualified
who's never had handcuffs on ever.

And then when you look at the outcomes of the job seeker
with the criminal record -- the black one -- his call backs
are reduced another 57 percent.

Communities internalize this.
In fact, when I went back to my community, Harlem, and
talked about the study, you know, people were like,
"Yeah, no 'blank,' right?
Yeah, like that's surprising to you?"

So your officers, your staff
are sort of working in this context, and I think
we all have to at the least recognize it, not ignore it.

Recognize that and not allow racism -- I don't think racism
is prevalent in law enforcement, but I think like any other
system it can seep into the system.

I think we have to be vigilant about weeding it out, and I
think we have to have the same sort of zero tolerance for
it within law enforcement that we do, that we take in law
enforcement about other things.

Because police legitimacy matters, because -- nothing like
being told how many minutes you have left --
[ Laughter ]

because police legitimacy matters because procedural
justice matters.
Another story: When I moved to Harlem, I remember being
pulled over by a police officer, got out of the car before
he really had a chance to approach me.
He approached me, he asked for ID, he said,
"Why are you here?
Why are you parked here?
Let me see your ID."
He ran the ID, and when he came back,
he gave it to me, he said, "Have a nice day."
You know in my head, I was like,
that was just some racist crap, right?
Nice car, black guy, that's the only reason he stopped me.
I decided to ask him why he stopped me, which most people
don't do, and he said,
"I'm stopping you because this is an area where
a lot of people pull over to solicit prostitution."

You know, you talk about, like, being in a
boat and bumping into another boat and being ready to curse
the person out and finding out the other boat is empty.

Like that was the feeling, right?

Like I was just all set to let this guy have it, but when
he explained to me why he stopped me, all of that

And it was my reality just a couple of minutes ago, and
then suddenly it wasn't, and suddenly there was another
reason for why this person stopped me.

Similarly, I was sitting in a barber shop yesterday, and
I was talking to the other barbers about coming here today
and about what they thought I should talk about.

And one told a story about gentrification in Harlem.
Harlem is changing.
It used to be a mostly black neighborhood.
Now it's extremely gentrified, and so things are changing:
more stores, more restaurants, the parks are beautiful.
He talked about being in a park and how they put all this
new equipment in the park, but they also created all these
new rules about the park: where you can be in the park,
criminalization of behavior -- if you don't have a child,
you can get a fine for being in the park -- and so on.

He was in the park playing ball on Saturday with his family
and he saw the police officers come over close to dusk, and
they started using the plastic flex cuffs to close certain
parts of the park up, right, the gates in the park.
And he defined that as, you know he said,
"Look at that," he said.
"That's one step short of martial law.
Clearly that's the direction we're heading in, in Harlem,
is martial law.
If you look below 96th Street and you look in Central Park,
they would never dare to do that."
And some parts of that story are true,
and some parts of it are just false,
right, but it's his reality.
It's many people's reality in the community.
And the question is, how do you do your work inside of that
When I talk to people,

I don't think that's easy,
I don't think that's easy.
It's not easy at the Fortune Society.
I know it's not easy in law enforcement.
And I'm looking at a generation of law enforcement
leadership that is probably struggling with, "How do we
watch the data and keep crime down," with, "How do we
recognize that if we do so much damage that people are not
calling the police, so that there is no data to watch, then
it means that some section of society is more safe, while
there are others that are not as safe?"
I recognize that challenge.

I also see how the community's behavior toward law
enforcement can easily be translated into apathy.

You know, you hear the community complain over and over,
"We don't want stop and frisk, but at the same time we want
you to reduce crime."
I've heard people refer to stop and frisk
as fishing with a machine gun -- the idea that you
are destroying the community, you're gonna catch the fish,
you're gonna destroy the community.

And I can see how if I were in law enforcement, I could
easily translate that to be apathy from the community.
But what I know, being on Community Board 10, being engaged
with local churches, and so on, is that people in these
communities want to increase public safety.
So turning back to our clients and how they are impacted
by over enforcement and stop and frisk, these are folks who
at a time in their lives are looking to create an identity,
to reinvent themselves, to undo years of behavior, habitual
behavior, and the message to them is that, unfortunately,
that we don't value them, that we don't put a lot of worth
in them, a lot of trust in them.

It marginalizes them; it disconnects them.

Then couple that with the collateral consequences, it
really unfortunately sends a message that's the opposite of
the message we're trying to send people who are trying to
reintegrate into community.

So, what can law enforcement do -- so I'm going to tell two
quick stories, I think I have 6 minutes left, so I think I
can do it in 6 minutes.

I'm going to tell two stories about law enforcement.

It's not about policing; it's about corrections.

But I think there's some similarities there -- paramilitary
organization, language is very important to them about how
they engage people, they draw thick lines between
themselves and the offender and so on.

They have a certain culture, certain way of doing things.

So two stories; one pretty negative, one positive.

When I was leaving prison, there was about a week before I
left and I had been in the same institution for the entire
Because when you go into college in prison, there's not
many college programs so you luckily have the opportunity
to stay in the prison for the time that you're there, and
so you develop a relationship with the correction officers
whether you like it or not, right?
You don't want to be known as a person who's too close to
corrections, but it's just natural, it's human nature.
On the way out, I was talking to the corrections officer
about leaving and all my hopes and dreams and goals, and in
the middle of the conversation he said, he said,
"You know, you being here helped me get my boat,
and when your son gets here,
it's gonna help my son get his boat."

It was hard to hear,
it was hugely impactful, it shaped the way I
do the work going forward, but it was a very short
interaction: 2-, 3- minutes.

Another 2-, 3-minute story about a corrections officer:
When I was coming into the system, there was a correction
officer who worked in the receiving facility in New York,
and he was in the room where people who were being tested
to determine which facility they would go to.
And he looked down at my grades and he said,
"Wow, look at those grades."
He said, "You should go to college."
He said, "In fact, I can see what I can do to get you to
one of the prisons that have a college program."

When people ask me, like,
"What changed your life?"
I usually start out by saying, "Oh, education."

And that is a big part of it,
but probably equally as important was the fact that a
person in a position of authority, a person I respected,
a person who didn't have to pay a lot of attention outside of
his own job description, took the time to tell me that I
could be better than I was, right?
Even better than I envisioned myself, and it didn't take
any longer than it takes to stop and frisk a person.

So, if we're going to do these large-scale stops and
frisks, and if we're going to be thinking about how do we
watch the numbers and have that be the measurement, the
question is: How do we create quality engagements between
law enforcement and people so that you have an impact that
takes a person from sticking up jewelry stores for a living
to helping to change people's lives every day for 10 years?

Because that's my story, and the narrative has changed so
considerably for me as a result of education and someone in
a position of authority taking the time to see value in me.

As law enforcement leaders around the country, I hope
that as you think of how to develop policy in your own
jurisdictions, and how you change culture, and how you
motivate your staff to do things a bit differently
while at the same time watching what matters, you recognize
that even in the short interaction that law enforcement has
with these communities, that you can change lives.

Even though you're sort of in a difficult situation at the
end of the line and dealing with all these other things
that brought people to the table and got them to the point
of committing crime, you just cannot give up on people.

If you look at my rap sheet, it would have been easy to
give up on me.

Everything about my rap sheet says that I should not be
standing here in front of you today.

The reason I'm here today and the reason -- no matter what
would have happened over the last week, even with the
dental surgery and so on.

You know all the text messages I sent today and emails and
the tweeting I did today, it was all about this being one
of the largest opportunities I've had in my entire career,
in the entire 10 years I've been doing this work.

Because in the end, law enforcement is the feeder into the
criminal justice system.

There is some level of discretion when law enforcement
engages people in the street where, where the rubber hits
the road.

And so this huge opportunity is to turn people's lives
And so the things I want you to think about as you walk away
from this today is helping -- is that hope matters, that
people have dreams and desires just like everyone else in
this room, and that we're all much more alike than we are

Thank you for the opportunity.