If you go
› What: NAACP 11th annual Criminal Justice Seminar
› When: 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. today
› Where: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, student center
› Mark Gwyn, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director
› David Roddy, Chattanooga Police Department chief
› Jim Hammond, Hamilton County sheriff
› Rob Philyaw, Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge
› Neal Pinkston, district attorney
› Jeannie Alexander, No Exception Prison Collective director
› Theeda Murphy, community activist
› Beverly Watts, Tennessee Human Rights Commission director
› Beth Foster, Mercy Junction director
› Dr. Walter McCulick, psychologist
› Jennifer Woods, NAACP Education Committee chairwoman
› Dwight Smith, NAACP Political Action Committee chairman
› Colline Ferrier, League of Women Voters of Chattanooga public relations director
› Chris Sands, Olivet Baptist Church youth director
Criminal justice experts will gather in Chattanooga today to discuss mass incarceration, racial disparities in the prison system and other pressing topics.
From 8 a.m.-2 p.m. in the student center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP will host a seminar called "Does Justice Prevail?" The event is free and features a handful of prominent speakers in law enforcement, as well as activists and directors who specialize in housing discrimination, jail reform, the school-to-prison pipeline and voter disenfranchisement.
The keynote speaker will be former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn, who just stepped down from the position he'd held since 2004. Rounding out the law enforcement contingent are Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy, Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw.
Speeches will focus on community policing, the role of school safety resource officers, ways to prevent juvenile delinquency, how to expunge convictions from your record and the racketeering case the district attorney's office recently brought against 54 alleged gang members.
Other speakers include the following Nashville specialists: Jeannie Alexander, director of the No Exception inmate advocacy nonprofit; Theeda Murphy, an activist who will discuss police oversight committees; and Beverly Watts, director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, whose presentation will address housing discrimination.
And from Chattanooga, Beth Foster, of Mercy Junction, will speak about human rights; Jennifer Woods, education committee chairwoman of the NAACP, will discuss the school-to-prison pipeline; Chris Sands, youth director for Olivet Bapist Church, will delve into youth violence; and Dwight Smith, political action committee chairman of the NAACP, and Colline Ferrier, of the League of Women Voters of Chattanooga, will discuss voter disenfranchisement.
The number of people incarcerated in America exploded between 1980 and 2015, increasing from 500,000 to more than 2.2 million people, according to a news release from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP. That expansion has disproportionately hit African-Americans and Hispanics with longer drug sentences and prison stays and fewer job and educational opportunities, the fact sheet says.
"Spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of spending on Pre-K-12 public education in the last 30 years," the release states.
"Though African-Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32 percent of the U.S. population, they comprised 56 percent of all incarcerated people in 2015," the release continues. "If African-Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40 percent."
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347.