Featured Speakers

James Forman Jr.

James Forman Jr. is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He attended public schools in Detroit and New York City before graduating from the Atlanta Public Schools. After attending Brown University and Yale Law School, he worked as a law clerk for Judge William Norris of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court.

After clerking, he joined the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., where for six years he represented both juveniles and adults charged with crimes.

During his time as a public defender, Professor Forman became frustrated with the lack of education and job training opportunities for his clients. In 1997, along with David Domenici, he started the Maya Angelou Public Charter School, an alternative school for school dropouts and youth who had previously been arrested. A decade later, in 2007, Maya Angelou School expanded and agreed to run the school inside D.C.’s juvenile prison. That school, which had long been an abysmal failure, has been transformed under the leadership of the Maya Angelou staff; the court monitor overseeing D.C.’s juvenile system called the turnaround “extraordinary.”

Forman taught at Georgetown Law from 2003 to 2011, when he joined the Yale faculty. At Yale, he teaches Criminal Law and a seminar called Inside Out: Issues in Criminal Justice, in which Yale law students study alongside men and women incarcerated in state and federal prisons.

Professor Forman teaches and writes in the areas of criminal procedure and criminal law policy, constitutional law, juvenile justice, and education law and policy. His particular interests are schools, prisons, and police, and those institutions’ race and class dimensions. Professor Forman’s first book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, was on many top 10 lists, including the New York Times’ 10 Best Books of 2017, and was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Professor Forman will keynote the Black Public Defender Association Conference.

Ronald Simpson-Bey

Ronald D. Simpson-Bey is an NLADA board member and acting chair of the NLADA client council. He also works as the Director of Outreach & Alumni Engagement for JLUSA and is a 2015 LwC Fellow. He is a national decarceration leader committed to cutting the number of people under correctional supervision in half by 2030. Ronald does policy advocacy work with the Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration (MI-CEMI), and community organizing with the Nation Outside organization for returning citizens. He is a co-founder and advisory board member of the Chance For Life (CFL) organization in Detroit, Michigan. Ronald served 27 years in the Michigan prison system as an engaged, thoughtful, and creative leader, founding many enrichment programs rooted in transformation, redemption, and self-accountability. He attended Eastern Michigan University, Mott Community College, and Jackson Community College and has worked as a staff paralegal at the former Prison Legal Services of Michigan, Inc.

Ronald Simpson-Bey will speak at COD.


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