(October 5, 2016 | Washington, D.C.) – Andrea James and Glenn E. Martin, leading human rights defenders working to reform the criminal justice system in the United States, have been selected as the honorees for the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, now in its 33rd year. The award recognizes their indispensable work to equip currently and formerly incarcerated women and men to be at the frontlines of reform efforts in the United States to end the racial and socioeconomic inequality perpetuated by the criminal justice system.
"Andrea and Glenn are precisely the moral leaders our country needs to solve one of our most pressing human rights problems here at home: a broken criminal justice system that unjustly targets communities of color and the poor,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. "This is the civil and human rights issue of our time. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is proud to recognize Andrea’s and Glenn’s remarkable achievements with this award, and to partner with them moving forward on this important work.”
Andrea James is the Founder and Executive Director of Families for Justice as Healing, the founder of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, a 2015 Soros Justice Fellow, and the author of Upper Bunkies Unite: And Other Thoughts On the Politics of Mass Incarceration.
Andrea worked within the criminal justice system for more than 25 years, from her days as a youth worker, to her work as a criminal defense attorney. In 2009 she was sentenced to serve a 24-month federal prison sentence. After a lifetime of work seeking justice on behalf of disenfranchised people, she was stunned at what she encountered upon entering the federal prison system as an incarcerated person and uses her experience to raise awareness of the effect of incarceration of women on children and communities, and to shift from a criminal legal system to a system focused on human justice.
Glenn E. Martin is the Founder of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), an organization dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform. Glenn is a national leader and criminal justice reform advocate who spent six years in NYS prisons. Prior to founding JLUSA, Glenn served for seven years as VP of Public Affairs at The Fortune Society, and six years as Co-Director of the National HIRE Network at the Legal Action Center.
In 2015, Glenn wrote an open letter to President Obama, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, after a visit as an invited guest to the White House when he was separated from his colleagues and given a special escort due to his criminal conviction. Glenn was later invited back to speak on a panel at the White House, getting the chance to meet with President Obama at an event focused on criminal justice reform. In 2016, Glenn issued a call to New York City’s social justice community to launch a campaign to close Rikers Island, the city’s notorious jail. His efforts led to the formation of the #CLOSErikers Coalition, currently composed of over 100 organizations and growing.
Today, more than 2.3 million people are currently incarcerated in America, and every year nearly 11 million people cycle through jail – many of them held temporarily in pretrial detention because they cannot afford to pay bail. Across the board the American criminal justice system disproportionately impacts the poor and people of color, and is one of the largest drivers of racism and socio-economic inequality in today’s society.
Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy will honor the work of Andrea and Glenn with the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in Washington, D.C., in a ceremony on November 17th. Andrea and Glenn join 47 RFK Human Rights Award Laureates from 29 countries as the recipients of the 33rd annual prize, initiating a multi-year partnership with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
About the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award
The RFK Human Rights Award was established in 1984 to recognize individuals who stand up to oppression at grave personal risk in the nonviolent pursuit of human rights. The Human Rights Award Laureates have made significant contributions to their countries through years of dedicated work. Laureates are chosen through an exhaustive annual nomination and selection process with nominations submitted from all over the world.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights offers a small monetary prize to the recipient of the Award. While it is not a grant-making organization, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights forges strategic partnerships with the new Laureate. Recent RFK Human Rights Award Laureates include Natalia Taubina (Russia, 2015), Adilur Rahman Khan (Bangladesh, 2014), Ragia Omran (Egypt, 2013), Librada Paz (United States, 2012), Frank Mugisha (Uganda, 2011), and Abel Barrera Hernández (Mexico, 2010).
About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Founded in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights works to realize Robert Kennedy’s vision of a more just and peaceful world. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has honored journalists, authors, and human rights activists who, often at great personal risk and sacrifice, are on the frontlines of the international movement for human rights and social justice.