Van Jones Joins New Yorkers United for Justice in Albany to Push for Criminal Justice Reform
February 12, 2019

February 12, 2019
Contact: Melissa Mansfield (


Fresh Off National First Step Act Victory, Jones Unites with NYUJ to Make Sure New York is the Next Front in the Criminal Justice Reform Movement – as Opposition Mobilizes

Albany, NY – Today, REFORM CEO Van Jones, national criminal justice reform advocate and a key architect of the recently passed bipartisan FIRST STEP Act, joined New Yorkers United for Justice chief strategist Khalil A. Cumberbatch and senior advisor Topeka K. Sam in Albany to meet with lawmakers and press leaders to seize the moment—and pass a meaningful package of reforms this session. Cumberbatch and Sam are formerly incarcerated New Yorkers who have dedicated their lives to sharing their personal stories to impact legislation and advocate for criminal justice reform.

“There is a sense of urgency all over the country—and especially here, now, in New York, to come together and finally pass meaningful criminal justice reform. We have to address our current policies that trap vulnerable individuals in a cycle of poverty and incarceration. We’re calling on our leaders to prioritize criminal justice reform now. The families torn apart by our laws cannot wait any longer,” said Van Jones, CEO of REFORM.

“New York State has an opportunity to pass meaningful legislation that would create a criminal justice system that sparks empathy and opportunity. Now is the time to come together to fight for the people who have been left out, thrown away, and told that they are expendable. This is our chance to become a national model in comprehensive, compassionate reform,” said Topeka K. Sam, senior advisor, New Yorkers United for Justice.

“We need laws that reflect New York’s values. Instead our current laws are outdated, cruel, and do nothing to make us safer. Our tax dollars are spent on an expensive system that doesn’t work. it’s on all of us to hold our legislators accountable for allowing continued injustices that have gone on for far too long. We will be here as long as it takes—but this session we finally have the political will and the opportunity for meaningful reforms,” said Khalil A. Cumberbatch, chief strategist, New Yorkers United for Justice.

In the course of dozens of conversations with legislators of both chambers, Jones, Sam and Cumberbatch pushed for criminal justice reform legislation that adheres to the principles and priorities just released today by the organization – and made it clear that support is based on meeting the following criteria:

Reform Issues

To reach NYUJ’s shared goal of criminal justice reform in the State of New York through urgent, mass decarceration, NYUJ supports action to address the following categories:

  • Pretrial Reform
    • Prompt Access to Counsel
    • Elimination of Cash Bail/Reform on the overall Bail Process
    • Discovery Reform
    • Enforcement of the Right to a Speedy Trial
  • Reforming Civil Asset Forfeiture
  • Expungement of Low-Level Drug Offenses, Including Marijuana Sentences
  • Probation and Parole Reform
  • Robust use of Executive Clemency
  • Reducing the Collateral Consequences of Arrest and Conviction

NYUJ Principles

Any policy that NYUJ supports should meet, or have been demonstrated to meet, the following criteria:

  1. Has the most impact on achieving our mission of decarcerating and ending structural racism in the justice system
  1. Meets NYUJ’s goal of significant overall decarceration, by:
    1. Breaking pathways to prison and jail: eliminating the ways that New Yorkers become unnecessarily incarcerated and supervised; or
    2. Drawing down New York’s currently incarcerated and supervised population, through effective and humane means that minimize reliance upon incarceration to the maximum extent possible consistent with public safety; or
    3. Immediately addressing the recidivism crisis by transforming community supervision and post-incarceration
  1. Avoids exclusion from reform of broad categories of people based on conviction type, race, gender, socio-economic status, immigration status or any other inappropriate
  1. Utilizes the experiences of directly impacted people and communities to develop policy and strategy