On November 14, 2012, Stephen Bright, President and Senior Counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights spoke to UDC-DCSL about the need for reform in the criminal justice system.
Bright said 2 factors affect the quality of criminal defense: race and poverty. Bright discussed the historic reasons for the death penalty, slavery continuing in the South through convict leasing, and how lynching was eventually replaced with a legal system that deferred to mob rule.
Stephen Bright also talked about the explosion in mass incarceration in the late 70s and early 80s saying, "The criminal justice system has been the least affected by civil rights legislation.” He also described the legal system in the South as made up almost entirely of whites – prosecutors, judges, and juries - while blacks are excluded from decision-making roles and juries.
After sharing a few stories about the many ways the criminal justice
system has failed, Bright offered a few solutions. He said criminal
defense needs resources, structure, independence, training and
supervision, and standards of representation. Bright told the future
lawyers in attendance, "You can make a difference. You can change this.”