Friday, May 11, 2012 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — Former gang members, top law enforcement officials, leading neuroscientists and drug reform pioneers will gather for a frank and fascinating discussion at the 2012 Public Defender’s Justice Summit on Tuesday, May 29 at San Francisco Main Library.
The summit, JUSTICE ON TRIAL: Gangs, Neuroscience and Drug Reform, will be held in the library’s Koret Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free, but seating is limited. All attendees must register at sfpublicdefender.org.
The Justice Summit is the premier criminal justice conference on the West Coast. This year’s lineup focuses on the most hotly-debated subjects: gang violence, drug decriminalization and whether some people are pre-wired for violence, said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
“This is going to be the most captivating and provocative Justice Summit yet,” Adachi said. “The focus is on the freshest ideas in criminal justice. While high tech brain scans are changing the way we see mental illness and criminal culpability, legislators are preparing to do away with felony charges for drug possession and youth violence experts are finding new strategies for reducing gang violence.”
UCLA Professor Jorja Leap, author of Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me About Violence, Drugs, Love, and Redemption, will provide the keynote address, then the discussion will kick off with the first panel, Jumped In: Strategies to Reduce Gang Violence. Leap, who has worked nationally and internationally in violent and postwar settings, will join SFPD Commander of Investigations Michael Biel, former gang members and local gang intervention workers.
The second panel, The Brain on Trial, explores whether free will is truly free and features Dr. Kent Kiehl, president of the Mind Research Network and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of New Mexico. Kiehl has interviewed and used neuroimaging on more criminals than any other researcher in the world. He will be joined by David Faigman, director of the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science and Health Policy and author of Laboratory of Justice: The Supreme Court’s 200-Year Struggle to Integrate Science and the Law and Legal Alchemy: The Use and Misuse of Science in the Law.
“Today, neuroscientists can detect subtle differences in brain functioning with their scans that were unimaginable 30 years ago,” Adachi said. “It raises profound questions about how to hold people accountable for criminal behavior.”
The final panel of the day is devoted to State Sen. Mark Leno’s proposed legislation that would change simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor under state law. The bill’s supporters tout it as a way to ease overcrowding in state prisons and county jails while saving taxpayers millions of dollars. The panel features San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, Adult Probation Chief Wendy Still, National Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann and Deputy Public Defender Tal Klement.
The Justice Summit is co-sponsored by the Bar Association of San Francisco and the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association of Northern California.
To register to attend this free event and for information on additional speakers, please go to sfpublicdefender.org.