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January 11, 2021 From the Chair

Challenges Bring Forth New Opportunities

April Frazier Camara

The Year 2020 has been an extraordinary year with America facing the deadliest pandemic of our lifetime, racial unrest, and a deeply divided election year. Each crisis presents a new opportunity for positive change, and I am excited about the year ahead for the Criminal Justice Section to embrace these challenges.

There is no progress without change, and change is hard work. The world changed rapidly to respond to COVID-19, and the legal community had to quickly embrace technology and create virtual courts. Law enforcement and communities of color began to tackle some of the very painful realities regarding the deep-seated legacy of racism in the criminal legal system. The American electorate holds very strong and contrary views on where the country should go.

Despite these challenges, I am confident that we can move forward together if we embrace these challenges. Some very difficult conversations must take place to move us forward in America. We must tackle the issue of race, disparities in access to health care and other services, and discussions about how to best use technology in our legal system in a post-COVID world.

The ABA Criminal Justice Section brings together diverse voices and perspectives to deeply examine the most pressing issues in the criminal legal system, and the importance of diversity is more important now than ever. Our diversity will be our strength in moving forward to develop twenty-first-century solutions.

This year, I am excited to welcome the overlooked voices of the directly-impacted community to the CJS table. As chair, I appointed new CJS leaders who were previously incarcerated and can offer their directly lived experiences with the criminal legal system in shaping ABA policies. Their perspectives will enrich our work and also challenge us.

Although I know the road ahead is not an easy one, I do firmly believe that now is the time. It is time for America to address many of the underlying issues that we have politely buried for centuries in this country. I am hopeful that we can meet this challenge. But it will take all of us to do so.

Be well,
April Frazier Camara

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April Frazier Camara


April Frazier Camara is a former public defender and the co-founder of the Black Public Defender Association and Chief of Lifelong Learning at National Legal Aid and Defender Association. She is chair of the Criminal Justice Section for 2020-21.