The IJS in Action

Bernard E. Harcourt and Amna Akbar discuss new book Cooperation at the Philosopher and the Boston Review

Liberal democracy is in crisis around the world, unable to address pressing problems such as climate change. There is, however, another path – cooperation democracy. In this conversation with Amna Akbar, eminent philosopher and legal scholar Bernard Harcourt outlines a political theory grounded on recognition of our interdependence, an economic theory that can ensure equitable distribution of wealth, and a social theory that replaces the punishment paradigm with a cooperation paradigm. As Harcourt argues, by drawing on the core values of cooperation and the power of people working together, a new world of cooperation democracy is within our grasp.

"Jurors never heard of accomplice letter in death row case," reports Kim Chandler of the Associated Press. 

AP: Sixteen years after David Phillip Wilson was sentenced to death for killing a man during a 2004 burglary, the state of Alabama turned over a letter allegedly written by an accomplice saying she was the one that beat the victim with a bat until he fell.

“For almost twenty years, since August 2004, the State of Alabama through its District Attorney for Houston County and its Attorney General has hidden, withheld, and actively obstructed the disclosure of a written confession by petitioner’s co-defendant,” Wilson’s lawyer, Bernard Harcourt, wrote in a court filing. The state gave Wilson’s attorney only one page of the letter that discussed the killing. Harcourt is asking the judge to force the state to turn over the remainder...

Judge Watkins chided the prosecutors for their handling of the matter. He said Wilson’s trial counsel was given a series of police “offense reports” that described acquiring a letter where the writer claimed to have “hit Mr. Walker with a baseball bat until he fell.”

“At best, it appears the (accomplice) confession was disclosed to the defense in a manner designed to not attract attention to it, thus to put the defense at a trial and sentencing disadvantage. As the Supreme Court has made clear, Brady’s disclosure obligation is not readily discharged via gamesmanship,” the judge wrote in a footnote in the ruling.

Continue reading here, and learn more about David Wilson's case here.

IJS Practitioner-in-Residence Omavi Shukur and IJS team traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas to support organizer Dawn Jeffrey at her sentencing hearing.

Omavi testified at the hearing and was extensively quoted in the following day's Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Dawn was sentenced to time served. 


IJS Scholar-in-Residence Derecka Purnell named a 2022 Freedom Scholar by the Marguerite Casey Foundation


IJS Practitioner-in-Residence Omavi Shukur and IJS team traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas to support organizer Dawn Jeffrey at her sentencing hearing.

Omavi testified at the hearing and was extensively quoted in the following day's Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Dawn was sentenced to time served. 


IJS Artist-in-Residence Kenyatta Emmanuel publishes article "A Voice in Prison" in the Stanford Social Innovation Review

"Arts programming in prisons is more than just rehabilitation. It’s radical activism," writes Kenyatta Emmanuel and Jozben Barrett in this new article. Read it here.

Plaintiffs in Thunderhawk et al. v. County of Morton et al. File Supplemental Brief on Qualified Immunity

The brief was filed October 5, 2022. Read the brief here. 

ARTE x IJS Abolition Genealogy 

"We also acknowledge that this is an imperfect and ever-evolving genealogy. We hope it will be lovingly challenged, added to, and, first and foremost, used as a tool and resource for study, reflection, and action. Like abolition itself, we had to start somewhere. There is no better time than now." 

Special thanks to Mabel Smith, ARTE's Spring 2022 research assistant for her work on this project and to IJS Artist-in-Residence and ARTE Executive Director, Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario, for this collaboration.

Derecka Purnell to speak at Socialism 2022: Change Everything Conference

The conference will take place September 2-5 in Chicago. Registration is open here.

Socialism 2022: Change Everything

Lisette Bamenga publishes "Higher Education in Prison Programs Need More Faculty of Color and Faculty Who are Legal System Impacted" in the Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity

Program administrators must be intentional when hiring faculty and selecting electives in order to hire faculty the students will be able to relate to, perceive as role models, and who will be able to provide students in higher education in prison (HEP) programs with knowledge about racial issues in our society often from personal experience. Having White allies teach in HEP programs is significant, but the impact of seeing Black faculty who possess post-secondary degrees and prominent positions in the community (Turner & Grauerholz, 2017) is especially imperative and can be inspiring for this student population. As a former Academic Coordinator for a HEP program where the majority of the student body is comprised of people of color, I believe faculty of color, as well as faculty who are directly impacted by the legal system, need to be recruited on a larger scale. Continue reading here


Derecka Purnell publishes article on the roots of racist violence and how to fight it.

"After a century of attempts by Black activists and lawmakers, President Joe Biden signed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act on the White House lawn, surrounded by Black politicians, clergy, and nonprofit leaders. The new federal law makes lynching a hate crime. Representative Bobby Rush, the bill’s sponsor in the House of Representatives, called the moment “a day of enormous consequence for our nation.” But I had questions. Doubts really. Do white supremacists kill Black people because we did not have a federal anti-lynching law? If not, then does Congress think that such a law will be a deterrent? Will federal prosecutors listen to Black families who say their children were lynched – or to police and coroners who call suspicious deaths “suicides”? Will this law punish civilians for violence but reward them if they join police departments?"

Continue reading here.


Che Gossett presents their upcoming biography of Kiyoshi Kuromiya at the University of Oxford.

Their talk focuses on the remarkable life of AIDS activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya, who was born in an internment camp and was involved in Civil Rights, Black Power, queer and trans liberationist and AIDS activist movements. They argue that abolition — from closets to cages — is the thread that sutures together his participation in these social movements, which are so often historicized as discrete.

Kiyoshi Kuromiya: A Political Biography poster, with photo of Che Gossett.


Bernard E. Harcourt is celebrated for winning the 2021 Lionel Trilling Prize for Critique & Praxis.

Saidiya Hartman, author if Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, and Farah Griffin, author of Read Until You Understand, were also celebrated at the ceremony on May 10th for receiving the same award in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

Critique & Praxis was published in paperback in April 2022.

Trilling & Van Doren Awards 2020-2022


Derecka Purnell publishes article on Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, in New York Magazine's special issue on the first ten years of Black Lives Matter

"Grief can stretch and collapse time like a Slinky. George Zimmerman killed Trayvon more than 3,000 days ago, yet only a handful of holidays have passed. Fulton still hangs a stocking for her baby. 'It’s so easy to just be depressed and be sad,' she says, 'but I have to remember I have another son, I have myself, I just have to keep pushing forward and just know that I do have a son in heaven. I’m making an extra effort to celebrate the holidays, to celebrate Christmas, his birthday, Mother’s Day, because all of those things remind me of him.'..." Read the full article here.

Grief Over Time Sybrina Fulton, who lost her son Trayvon Martin ten years ago this month, found her painful place in American history.

Che Gossett and David J. Getsy Publish "A Syllabus on Transgender and Nonbinary Methods for Art and Art History" in Art Journal

UPDATE: Che Gossett and David J. Getsy win College Art Association Award for Distinction 

The authors write that the "syllabus is intended to introduce central topics and methods from transgender studies to art history. It proposes some ways that art and art history’s key themes might be reimagined."

Tourmaline, Salacia, 2019, 16 mm film, color,sound, 6:04 min., installation view, Chapter, NY(artwork © Tourmaline; photograph by DarioLasagni, provided by the artist and Chapter NY,New York)


Judge Grants Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel in Part in Standing Rock Case

After private security firm TigerSwan failed to produce key documents and materials requested by Plaintiffs and to provide adequate reasons for why production of these requested materials was not possible, Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel on September 7, 2021. On January 3, 2022, Judge Traynor of the District of North Dakota granted Plaintiffs' motion in part. The court ordered Plaintiffs to subpoena  Energy Transfer Partners, who is in possession of the materials Plaintiffs requested, and TigerSwan will be responsible for the associated costs.

Plaintiffs are now planning on issuing a subpoena to ETP and moving forward with discovery.

Snow at Standing Rock


Rest in Peace, Doyle Lee Hamm

On November 28, 2021, Doyle Lee Hamm died of lymphoma on Alabama’s Death Row at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama. The New York Times published an obituary for Doyle Lee Hamm on November 29, 2021.

On Friday, December 3, 2021, Doyle Lee Hamm was laid to rest beside his mother and father, Eula Mae Howell and Major Edward Hamm, his six older brothers, James, Ted, O’Neal, Horace, Jimmy, and David, his two sisters, Ruthie and Linda, his grandparents, and extended family, at the cemetery in Barton, Alabama, in the beautiful northwestern part of the state, near Muscle Shoals and the Tennessee Valley. The Associated Press published an article on Doyle's memorial service on December 4, 2021. 

In Memoriam Doyle Lee Hamm


Lawsuit Involving Fatal Police Shooting Settles

The lawsuit against the city of Little Rock and two former police officers over the 2019 fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire ended after the court entered a dismissal order on November 9, 2021. Read the plaintiffs' motion to dismiss here.

IJS Practitioner-in-Residence Omavi Shukur, along with co-counsel at the NAACP LDF and Loevy & Loevy, represented the plaintiffs.

Bradley Blackshire


IJS Postdoctoral Scholar Che Gossett in Time on Activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya

Dr. Gossett is writing a biography of Kiyoshi Kuromiya

Watch the video with Dr. Gossett on Kiyoshi Kuromiya here.


Legal Team Representing Bradley Blackshire’s Family Reaches Settlement in Lawsuit Involving Fatal Police Shooting

Today, plaintiffs represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), co-counsel Loevy & Loevy, and the Initiative for a Just Society reached a settlement – subject to the approval by the probate court – with the city of Little Rock, Arkansas for monetary and non-monetary relief.  This lawsuit was filed in June 2019 on behalf of the family of Bradley Blackshire, a Black man who was repeatedly shot and killed by former Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) Officer Charles Starks. The suit brought forth several claims, including counts of excessive force, failure to provide medical attention, and wrongful death.

Read the full joint press release from the NAACP LDP, Loevy & Loevy, & the Initiative for a Just Society here

Police Lights


Derecka Purnell on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Derecka Purnell, Scholar-in-Residence at the Initiative for a Just Society, talks about her new book, Becoming Abolitionists, on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. 


Derecka Purnell joins Michelle Alexander for Book Talk at Politics & Prose

For recordings of Becoming Abolitionists book talks and other press, please visit the Becoming Abolitionists News page.


One less person on Rikers Island

As conditions on Rikers Island continue to deteriorate, IJS works to aid the release of individuals. On September 30, 2021, there was at least one less person on Rikers—seen here, crossing Foley Square, after being released from Rikers and state court, with all of the books he read while incarcerated.  

One less individual on Rikers Island


$17 Million Revelations in Standing Rock Litigation

The private security firm TigerSwan received over $17 million from Dakota Access LLC for its work related to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, recent court filings and documents produced in response to a judicial order in the ongoing litigation Thunderhawk v. County of Morton reveal.

Read the full press release here.

Highway 1806 south side blockade in Morton County, North Dakota


Kenyatta Emmanuel performs at Wild Birds 

Kenyatta Emmanuel Hughes, Artist-in-Residence at the IJS, performed live in Brooklyn on September 20, 2021. Here is Hughes in an earlier concert at Carnegie Hall: 

On October 21, 2019, Kenyatta Emmanuel walked out of prison after serving 24.5 years and just a few hours later, walked onto the stage at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Room to perform his first concert as a free man.


Abdul Latif Nasser Released from Guantanamo Bay

"'He is ecstatic,' said Bernard E. Harcourt, a New York-based lawyer and law professor, who represented Mr. Nasser in federal court... He was particularly buoyed by being reunited with extended family members who had gathered for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holy day known as the Feast of Sacrifice, Mr. Harcourt added." — "A freed Guantánamo Bay detainee is reunited with his family in Morocco," by Carol Rosenberg for The New York Times

Moroccan man held nearly 20 years without charges released from Guantanamo

Carol Rosenberg, A freed Guantánamo Bay detainee is reunited with his family in MoroccoNew York Times, July 20, 2021. 

Sacha Pfeiffer, "Biden Administration Transfers First Detainee Out Of Guantánamo," NPR, July 19, 2021.

Chuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, "Moroccan man held nearly 20 years without charges released from Guantanamo," ABC, July 19, 2021.

Carol Rosenberg and Charles Savage, "Biden Administration Transfers Its First Detainee From Guantánamo Bay," New York Times, July 19, 2021.

"After Almost 20 Years, Guantanamo “Forever Prisoner” Abdul Latif Nasser Returns Home to Morocco," Press Release, July 19, 2021.