Adam J. Foss

A leader in the effort to reform criminal justice to speak at UO

A leading advocate for criminal justice reform who also is considered one of the most influential black Americans will visit the UO to discuss efforts to fight bias in the judicial system.

Adam J. Foss, co-founder of Prosecutor Impact, will present “Shields and Swords: Waging a Battle Against Bias in Public Systems.” The public talk will take place Nov. 28 in the Redwood Auditorium of the Erb Memorial Union, Room 214.

The lecture begins at 12:15 p.m., with lunch served at noon. Foss is the second visitor in this year’s African American Workshop and Lecture Series.

Foss is an advocate for criminal justice reform and the importance of the role of the prosecutor in ending mass incarceration. He co-founded the nonprofit advocacy group Prosecutor Impact based on his belief that the profession of prosecution is ready to change and require better incentives and more measurable metrics for success beyond simply “cases won.”

Prosecutor Impact develops training and curriculum for prosecutors to reframe their role in the criminal justice system.

Foss is also currently a visiting senior fellow at Harvard Law School, a fellow at the Open Society Foundation Leadership in Government initiative, and a director’s fellow in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, an interdisciplinary research lab that encourages mixing and matching disparate research areas.

Foss is the recipient of numerous awards, including Nelson Mandela Changemaker of the Year in 2017; Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business of 2017; the Root’s 100 Most Influential Black Americans in 2016; National Law Journal’s 40 Most Up-and-Coming Lawyers in 2015; Massachusetts Bar Association Prosecutor of the Year in 2013; and Suffolk University Law School, Foss’s alma mater, Graduate of the Last Decade.

In 2016 Foss delivered the TED talk “A prosecutor’s vision for a better justice system.”

In the talk, Foss argues that a reformed justice system that replaces wrath with opportunity can change people’s lives for the better instead of ruining them. The talk has more than 1.75 million views.

“Mr. Foss’ insights about creating a better justice system is essential when mass incarceration has such a profound negative impact on particularly the African-American community and our youth,” said Yvette Alex-Assensoh, the UO’s vice president for equity and inclusion. “His work on the justice system also can be expanded to many other issues essential for higher education and equity and inclusion. Concepts of how we can create better opportunities for students, faculty and staff from underrepresented communities is critical and can be life-changing.”

In addition to his public lecture, Foss will meet with UO President Michael Schill and members of the senior leadership team; the Black Student Task Force; students interested in pursuing legal and nonprofit work; and faculty, staff and students from Undergraduate Studies, student life, general counsel’s office, conflict resolution program, UO Police Department and affirmative action.

Small-group discussion topics will include how the UO might more intentionally use principles of restoration and rehabilitation in UO disciplinary processes for faculty, staff and students.

The African-American Workshop and Lecture Series is part of Schill’s effort to increase diversity in many areas of the university, sparked by concerns raised by the UO’s Black Student Task Force.

RSVPs to the lecture are appreciated, but not required. Further information can be found on the Division of Equity and Inclusion website.

—By tova stabin, University Communications