Patrice Sulton, Executive Director of DC Justice Lab, speaking with a Forum participant during the Justice Expo

 

By Patrice Amandla Sulton, Executive Director, DC Justice Lab 

When I was taking off to attend my first World Justice Forum, I had every expectation that I would hear the brightest minds debating the most complex social issues of our time. I was ready to learn about challenges unknown to me, faced by communities outside of the United States. What I didn’t expect was to see so many effective and transformative solutions that had already been implemented across the globe. The Justice Expo was not a showcase of proposals, suggestions, or hypotheses. It was an inventors’ forum: a spectacular display of evidence that dramatic change and global healing are achievable through innovation.

My favorite part of participating as a finalist in this year’s World Justice Challenge was watching the live presentations. As a former trial attorney, I love the sport of oral advocacy and this was competition at the highest level. My colleagues in the Equal Rights and Non-Discrimination category were incredibly thoughtful, passionate, and persuasive. The organizations I was partnered with included EcoCiclo, fighting for menstrual justice in Brazil; the Samuel Ioron Foundation, protecting people displaced in Nigeria; and Youth LGBT Organization Deystvie, litigating civil rights in Bulgaria. All presenters in our room were women. 

Our project, DC Justice Lab, is on a mission to fundamentally change criminal justice policies and policymaking in Washington, DC. We discussed how enormous, expensive, and racially imbalanced our systems of punishment have become. We laid out our blueprint for changing many laws at once, to strengthen democracy, ensure fairness, and save lives. The key message we hope we shared effectively is that we cannot solve community violence through state violence. People are made safer by policies that reduce harm, not those that redouble it.

During the Expo, we were able to illustrate how massive America’s prison system is by entering other countries into the World Prison Brief online database. When a person stopped by from a country of more than 30,000,000 people, we were able to show that they had the same number of pretrial detainees as the city of Washington, DC alone. 

The projects in each category were diverse in their approaches to problem solving, but there were also some noticeable similarities across all thirty finalists. For example, it was nearly impossible for us to talk about criminal justice, without also talking about other Rule of Law factors such as fundamental rights and constraints on government powers. The sheer size of the American criminal legal system—the breadth of our criminal offenses, the scope of our penalties—is an affront to government accountability. Mass criminalization and incarceration is the direct result of affording far too much discretion to police, prosecutors, and prisons. By attending the World Justice Forum, I came to appreciate that state violence takes many forms and that most rule of law initiatives focus, to some degree, on moving power from state actors to the people they govern. 

It was a truly wonderful experience to be at the Forum in The Hague. I am looking forward to continuing to be involved in the network of alumni making a difference around the world.

DC Justice Lab was a 2022 World Justice Challenge finalist in the Access to Justice category. 

title bar

Read More

title bar

Corruption is on the rise globally, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this trend and demonstrated its urgency. The 2021 WJP Rule of Law Index shows that 66% of the 139 countries covered by the Index declined in absence of corruption in 2021 and 58% have declined over the last six years. Meanwhile, Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index states that 131 out of 180 countries studied have made “no significant progress against corruption in the past decade.”  To address this mounting challenge, The World Justice Forum 2022 convened anti-corruption experts from around the world in The Hague and online to discuss the root causes of corruption, its existential threat to the rule of law, and the methods that prove most effective in combating it.

Read More

On September 4, Chile rejected the adoption of a new constitution, that would, among other provisions, enshrine gender parity at the national level.   World Justice Challenge 2022 honoree Fundación Multitudes was deeply involved in the lead up to the vote, hosting a series of conversations with women candidates to the Constitutional Convention, feminist activists, and others in 2020 and 2021. It was through these workshops that they recognized that disinformation and online gender-based violence were a barrier that discouraged women from pursuing a political career or even participating in the political arena as advocates and citizens.   WJP recently talked to Paulina Ibarra, Executive Director of Fundación Multitudes, to learn more about their work in Chile, and how, in light of the recent referendum results, they are looking to the future.  

Read More

Three months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the World Justice Project sat down with Dariia Marchak, Chief Operating Officer of SE Prozorro.Sale, a World Justice Challenge finalist in the Anti-Corruption and Open Government Category.   SE Prozorro.Sale is a Ukrainian state enterprise that has transformed the country’s privatization process through an electronic auction platform that facilitates transparent sales of government assets to private companies. Since the war began, the company has continued its work, running auctions to raise money for Ukraine’s defense and humanitarian aid.   Marchak shared insights into SE Prozorro.Sale’s work as an anti-corruption platform and how months after the start of the war, Ukrainians are focused not just on resistance, but on building a better, stronger democracy.  

Read More

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an exceptional lawyer, judge, and trailblazing advocate for women’s rights, in addition to being an honorary chair of the World Justice Project, where she has served as an inspiration for building the rule of law movement.   In June, the World Justice Project honored her legacy at the 2022 World Justice Forum, with the first Ruth Bader Ginsburg Legacy Keynote Conversation. The featured speaker was Sherrilyn Ifill, a prominent American civil rights lawyer and inspirational advocate who is president and director-counsel emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.  Before a wide-ranging conversation with CIVICUS Secretary General Lysa John, Ifill delivered the keynote remarks below. 

Read More