Leymah Gbowee, The Innocence Project and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project -- Recognized for their Exemplary Dedication to Justice
Actors Ellen Burstyn, Mia Farrow Served as Presenters
Wednesday, April 7, 2010 – John Jay College of Criminal Justice presented the John Jay Medal for Justice to Leymah Gbowee, Executive Director of Women, Peace & Security Africa; the Florence, AZ Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project; and the Innocence Project on April 6, 2010. The ceremony was held in the College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theatre, 899 Tenth Avenue.
Leymah Gbowee received the global leader for justice award in recognition of her extraordinary commitment to mobilizing women to stop the war in Liberia. Ellen Burstyn, Golden Globe and Academy Award winner, presented this award.
The national leader for justice award was given to The Innocence Project in acknowledgement of the Project’s commitment to freeing wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. The award was accepted by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, co-founders/co-directors of the Project. Mia Farrow, Golden Globe nominee, served as the presenter for this award.
The community leader for justice award was presented to the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in recognition of their commitment to legally representing indigent individuals detained in Arizona for immigration removal proceedings. Kara Hartzler, Legal Director, accepted the award for the Florence Project. Rossana Rosado, publisher of El Diario/La Prensa, presented this award.
The John Jay Medal for Justice was created in 2008 to honor individuals and organizations that exemplify dedication to the cause of justice. The Hon. Judith Kaye was the first recipient. Last year’s recipients were Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, BJ Bernstein, a prominent Atlanta attorney and the NYU Brennan Center.
“The John Jay Medal for Justice recognizes one luminary and two exceptional organizations for their extraordinary contributions to justice," said John Jay President Jeremy Travis. “They affirm the commitment of John Jay the man and John Jay College to strengthen society’s social fabric through justice and civic engagement.”
In addition to the presenters and recipients, notables who participated in the ceremony included:
- Joshua Bell, acclaimed classical violinist, who was named the 2010 Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America.
- Sing for Hope -- world-class artists who donate time and talent to the humanitarian causes that inspire them.
The college would like to offer special thanks to Richard J. Tarlow, a member of the John Jay College Foundation Board, for graciously underwriting the Justice Award Ceremony. The selection of the John Jay Justice Award Recipients was determined by a Committee of the John Jay College Foundation Board.
About the Award Recipients:
As a mother, social worker and witness to the violence wrought by the bloody Liberian civil war, Leymah Gbowee realized it was up to the women of Liberia to end the devastation. Gbowee joined the Women in Peacebuilding Network where her charismatic leadership enabled her to rally both Christian and Muslim women to join together to protest the conflict.
Gbowee’s coalition forced a meeting with President Charles Taylor and convinced him to attend peace talks. During negotiations, Gbowee continued to apply pressure on the warring factions until they agreed to take the talks seriously. As a result, Taylor was removed from power and a new government was formed.
Gbowee is currently the Executive Director of Women, Peace and Security Africa, a women-led, Pan-African non-governmental organization committed to promoting women’s strategic participation and leadership in peace and security initiatives and governance in Africa.
THE INNOCENCE PROJECT
In 1992, Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld established the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Its mission is to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated by using DNA technology and to reform the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment. The Innocence Project’s staff attorneys and Cardozo clinic students provide direct pro bono representation or critical assistance to their clients. To date, 250 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing.
The Innocence Project’s work has resulted in enhancing public awareness of systemic problems, legislative reform and shaping the course of case law. It also has lead to an influential study by the National Academy of Sciences on the need for more reliable forensic science, as well as important state and federal legislation, which have set standards for the use of DNA testing, forensic psychiatry and laboratory science in criminal defense work.
THE FLORENCE IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE RIGHTS PROJECT
The Florence Project, located in Florence, Arizona, was created in 1989 by attorney Chris Brelje to address the gap in representation left by the absence of a public defender system in immigration removal proceedings.
Today the Florence Project is dedicated to serving the approximately 3,000 indigent immigrants, including unaccompanied minors, detained at any given time in Florence and Eloy, Arizona and contract shelters in Phoenix. It not only provides them with a full range of pro bono legal services but also integrated social services to address their diverse mental health and social service needs.
The Florence Project also acts as a national resource center for legal service “best practices” and “know your rights” materials as well as a training and consultation center for public defender offices in Arizona and legal service organizations serving detained immigrants nationwide.
About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit www.jjay.cuny.edu