Advocate against police brutality and founding director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Challenges human rights abuses in the U.S. criminal justice system.
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Van Jones is the founding director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Founded in 1996 and named for an unsung civil rights heroine, the Center challenges human rights abuses in the U.S. criminal justice system. A project of the Ella Baker Center, Bay Area Police Watch is committed to stopping police misconduct and protecting victims of abuse. Police Watch takes a multifaceted approach, combining advocacy with public education and community organizing. Staff work directly with individuals who have suffered police harassment, intimidation, and brutality. Jones’s efforts to establish civilian oversight, and to require transparency and accountability within disciplinary proceedings, have yielded results. Jones’s efforts to ban the use of pepper spray, routinely used by police in subduing suspects, has helped launch a nationwide campaign against the chemical weapon. The Police Watch Hotline documents callers’ complaints and refers victims to lawyers who are, in turn, trained by Police Watch in handling misconduct cases. Police Watch then helps victims and lawyers through legal proceedings, organizes community support, and advocates on behalf of victims to public officials and the media. These significant achievements have offered a corrective lesson that egregious abuses of human rights still take place even within the vaunted protection offered by the democratic laws of the United States. Jones is the author of The Green Collar Economy, the definitive book on “green jobs.” In 2008—thanks to a low-cost, viral marketing campaign—his book became an instant New York Times bestseller. Jones helped to pass America’s first “green job training” legislation, the Green Jobs Act, which George W. Bush signed into law as a part of the 2007 Energy Bill. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Reebok International Human Rights Award; the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader designation; and the prestigious, international Ashoka Fellowship. Jones was included in the Ebony magazine “Power 150” list of most influential African-Americans for 2009. In 2008, Essence magazine named him one of the 25 most inspiring/influential African Americans. TIME magazine named him an environmental hero in 2008. In 2009, TIME named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. From March to September 2009, Jones worked as the special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council for Environmental Quality and is currently a political correspondent on CNN.
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