Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Congressman John Conyers visits L'Ville

Hosted at the historic Simmons College, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, visited Louisville today as a part of Rep. John Yarmuth's "Congress on the Corner" initiative, the discussion was criminal justice. One of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Conyers has a remarkable political biography that has stirred Washington's power pot from Watergate to the Downing Street memo.

Today I sat down with Rep. Conyers as we discussed among other things, juvenile justice and the impact of the Jena 6.

"We've got a school to prison pipeline," Conyers said almost immediately after asking him about the crisis with juvenile justice. He stressed that the state of juvenile incarceration is tragic and a growing majority of incarcerated youth (shockingly!) are people of color. "

Regarding the controversial case in small town Louisiana that led to a national outcry and massive protests, Conyers highlighted that the Jena 6 case put a needed spotlight on the fairness of prosecutors, selective enforcement and draconian sentencing. "It touched a nerve," Conyers said, but "there are Jena 6s all over America."

Later during the community conversation Conyers described a country sitting at a crossroad between progress and peril and added that the job of a representative in Washington should be led by two basic principles, find good ideas and implement them. "The trouble with Washington," Conyers told the packed crowd on Simmons' 7th street campus, "we have a surplus of bad ideas."

After his brief remarks Conyers took questions from the audience with Rep. Yarmuth on a range of issues. "Congressman Yarmuth was very pleased to hear different opinions from the community," said a Yarmuth spokesperson. "The work in Washington begins with hearing from people in Louisville."

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