I need your help. I co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative to put the problem of mass incarceration — and the perverse incentives that fuel it — on the national agenda. Over the last 16 years, our campaigns have protected our democracy from the prison system and protected the poorest families in this country from the predatory prison telephone industry. Our reports untangle the statistics and recruit new allies.

But now, more than ever, we need your help to put data & compassion into the conversation. Any gift you can make today be matched by other donors and go twice as far.

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—Peter Wagner, Executive DirectorDonate

David Carliner Award presentation

by Peter Wagner, August 12, 2014

In June, I was honored to receive the American Constitution Society’s 2014 David Carliner Public Interest Award. The award “recognizes outstanding public interest lawyers whose work best exemplifies its namesake’s legacy of fearless, uncompromising and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people.”

David Carliner (1918-2007) was one of the great public interest lawyers of the 20th Century. He challenged segregation and state bans on interracial marriage, and he fought for the rights of immigrants and the LGBT community. As the founder of the National Capital chapter of the ACLU and the International Human Rights Law Group (now GlobalRights), he was a strong defender of civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad. Carliner liked to say that one shouldn’t mind being an agitator since agitators are the ones who get the dirt out.

I consider the award both a big personal honor and a milestone for the criminal justice reform movement. I went to law school a decade ago when prison populations were going up, and up, and up seemed like the only future. Both the powers that be — and the established progressive movement — were ignoring criminal justice advocates and the idea of criminal justice reform. Things have changed, and it was an honor to celebrate that fact with more than a 1,000 progressive attorneys — including some of the colleagues who encouraged my work over the last decade.

The ACS recently made the video of the award presentation and my remarks available:

(The video starts with ACS President Caroline Fredrickson introducing the award, then David Carliner’s granddaughter Sarah Remes, presenting the award at 3:13, and then my remarks start at 6:30.)

And here are some pictures from that evening:

Peter Wagner with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at a reception prior to the David Carliner Award

I met Justice Sotomayor at a reception prior to the award Ceremony.

  David Carliner's granddaughter, Sarah Remes and Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative

The award was presented by David Carliner’s granddaughter, Sarah Remes.

Peter Wagner giving speech after receiving David Carliner Award from the American Constitution Society   Peter Wagner giving speech after receiving David Carliner Award from the American Constitution Society

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