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Nearly two million Americans are held in our country’s prisons and jails, a number widely acknowledged as a source of national shame. Steeped in violence and dysfunction, the question “Where does prison reform begin?” remains daunting. Can America’s broken system be remade to value humanity over inhumanity? Is it possible for prisons to prepare incarcerated individuals for a better life, rather than leaving everyone involved worse off? These are just some of the urgent and confounding questions that Bill Keller, former New York Times executive editor and founding editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project, asks in his first book What’s Prison For? Punishment and Rehabilitation in the Age of Mass Incarceration. Join us for an evening of analysis and conversation with Keller joined by two experts who have dedicated their lives to prison reform: DeAnna Hoskins of JustLeadershipUSA and Wesley Caines of The Bronx Defenders.


Wesley Caines is Chief of Staff at The Bronx Defenders where earlier he was Director of Reentry & Community Engagement, roles which allowed him to work closely with directly impacted communities in understanding and developing strategies to overcome barriers that perpetually punish those ensnared in government systems. Before joining The Bronx Defenders, Wes worked at Brooklyn Defender Services and launched the Records Accuracy Project which utilized local area law students to identify and correct RAP (records of arrest and prosecution) sheet errors. A graduate of Bard College and New York Theological Seminary, Wes frequently speaks across the country about his exceptional personal journey and how it informs his work in criminal justice reform. He sits on numerous boards including the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Correctional Association of New York, and is a member of the New York City Bar Reentry Subcommittee among other organizations.

DeAnna R. Hoskins is President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. Dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in #halfby2030, JLUSA empowers people most affected by the criminal justice system to drive reform. DeAnna is a nationally recognized leader and a formerly incarcerated person with experience as an advocate and policy expert at the local, state, and federal level. Prior to joining JLUSA DeAnna served as a Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice, managing the Second Chance Act portfolio and serving as Deputy Director of the Federal Inter-Agency Reentry Council. Before that, she served as a county Director of Reentry in her home state of Ohio. DeAnna has always worked alongside advocates who have been impacted by incarceration and knows that setting bold goals and investing in the leadership of directly impacted people is a necessary component of impactful, values-driven reform.

Bill Keller is the founding editor-in-chief of the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers criminal justice in the United States. He was the executive editor of the New York Times and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for his reporting on the USSR.

Center for Brooklyn History's Fall series, Talks in the Othmer, is presented in partnership with New York University's Brooklyn-based 370 Jay Project. Programs take place in CBH's beautiful Othmer Reading Room.

To view all of our fall "Talks in the Othmer" click here.

We are very excited to have you back at our events and would like to remind you that we are still in the midst of the pandemic. Please be considerate of your fellow guests and stay home if you’re feeling unwell. Also, consider wearing a mask when attending indoor Center for Brooklyn History and BPL Presents events. You’ll be doing your part to help keep yourself and everyone healthy and safe. In-person capacity is limited and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.


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