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‘Unlikely Allies’ Van Jones and Doug Deason to discuss criminal justice reform at SMU Law event Friday, Aug. 18

Dedman Law alum also will interview woman she helped free from prison

August 15, 2017

DALLAS (SMU) – CNN political commentator Van Jones and Dallas businessman Doug Deason will unite as leading voices from the left and right, respectively, for “Unlikely Allies: The Nonpartisan Fight for Criminal Justice Reform” at SMU Dedman School of Law’s Karcher Auditorium from 3-4:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18.

Van Jones
Van Jones
Doug Deason
Doug Deason

The free public event, to conclude with a short reception, requires advance registration. Please click here and complete a form to register.

It is being hosted by SMU Dedman Law’s new Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center with #cut50, an initiative co-founded by Jones to “smartly and safely” cut the nation’s incarceration numbers in half. 

“In this moment of deep political partisanship, there remains a clear nonpartisan consensus: We must reform and reimagine our criminal justice system to create a fair, ethical and compassionate one,” says Deason Justice Center Director Pamela Metzger, a nationally respected criminal justice reform champion. (See her “60 Minutes” interview with Anderson Cooper here.)

Also speaking at the event will be SMU Dedman Law alumna Brittany K. Barnett ’11 and Sharanda Jones, whom Barnett helped free from a life sentence that she received in 1998 for a first-time, non-violent drug crime.

Barnett discovered Jones’ case as a second-year Dedman Law student researching racial bias and sentencing disparities in the criminal justice system. She took on Jones’ case pro bono. Even after earning her J.D. from Dedman Law and working full-time as a corporate attorney, Barnett mounted a tireless effort to gain clemency not only for Jones but also for six other inmates whose cases amounted to “excessive sentencing.”

Brittany Barnett
Brittany Barnett
Sharanda Jones
Sharanda Jones

In December 2015, President Barack Obama would agree: Barnett was successful in convincing him to commute Jones’ sentence after she had served 17 years in a Fort Worth federal prison. That decision, following seven years of work by Barnett, would give Jones a second chance at life – and put both women in the national and local spotlight.

“The powerful story to be shared by Brittany and Sharanda highlights the human costs of mass incarceration,” Metzger says. “It also offers hope for change.”

Barnett recently returned to alma mater SMU Dedman Law to work as a #cut50 Fellow and Deason Justice Center practitioner-in-residence “who exemplifies the very best of the legal profession,” Metzger adds.

The Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law is dedicated to non-partisan interdisciplinary collaboration with numerous groups interested in criminal justice reform. While engaging scholars, students, the judiciary, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense counsel and community members it will conduct independent research and host criminal justice experts at educational conferences to further the national conversation on criminal justice reform. It also will offer SMU Dedman School of Law students, scholars and practitioners hands-on learning opportunities to help improve peoples’ lives and communities.

The School of Law at SMU was founded in 1925. It was named Dedman School of Law in 2001 in honor of Dallas benefactors Nancy and Robert H. Dedman, Sr., and their family. SMU Dedman Law enjoys a national and international reputation of distinction. It is among the most competitive law schools in the country for admission, as well as one of the most successful in the placement of its graduates.

SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and 11,000 students in seven degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.

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