Judge Gayle Williams-Byers and Prosecutor Keller Blackburn Discuss Positive Potential of Criminal Justice System< < Back to
The Institute For Criminal Policy Research found that the United States has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any country in the world, with some 698 people incarcerated for every 100,000. These numbers can be broken down further, revealing stark racial disparity in how criminal activity is handled in the U.S.
According to numbers reported by the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, white Americans make up 64 percent of the U.S. population and 39 percent of the U.S. prison population, which translates to an incarceration rate of 450 per 100,000. This is in comparison to Black Americans making up only 13 percent of the U.S. population but a startling 40 percent of the U.S. prison population, with an incarceration rate of 2,306 per 100,000.
One figure who has been focused on changing these statistics is Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
In January 2018, Krasner took office as the 26th District Attorney of Philadelphia after winning in a landslide with a campaign pledging to put a stop to mass incarceration by revolutionizing the toxic culture of the criminal justice system that he had been fighting against for years as a civil rights lawyer. As Krasner took on the position, he was faced with working side by side with the bureaucrats and police he had rightfully criticized throughout his legal career, trying his best to continue to pursue his ultimate goal of dismantling a system that ultimately had served these wary new co-workers of his.
Throughout Krasner’s ascension to the position and the tumultuous times that followed, Krasner allowed a film crew to capture the flurry of frustration, determination, and struggle that accompanied the time period, which resulted in the production of PBS’ Independent Lens eight-part series Philly D.A. The series premieres with the broadcast of the first two episodes on WOUB-TV Tuesday, April 20 starting 9 p.m. ET.
WOUB Culture spoke to South Euclid Municipal Court Judge Gayle Williams-Byers and Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn about their experiences working within the criminal justice system, and what they are doing to change the system to better serve their communities, in the features embedded above.
Judge Williams-Byers was elected as the first Black judge for South Euclid Municipal Court in Northeastern Ohio in 2012, after years spent as a Capitol Hill Congressional staffer and a decade as an Assistant Prosecutor in Cuyahoga County.
Williams-Byers spoke to WOUB Culture about her firm belief in the power of the criminal justice system to do more good than harm even in the communities of color that it has historically disserviced, and what she is doing to work with the system for the benefit of South Euclid.
Blackburn began his work as Athens County Prosecutor in January 2013, and he spoke to WOUB Culture about what he is doing to provide sorely needed psychological and emotional educational resources to Athens County youth at risk for falling victim to the region’s substance abuse crisis.