The Charles Bronfman Prize has announced its 2018 recipient, Amy Bach, Founder, Executive Director and President of Measures for Justice (MFJ). It is the first organization to publicly measure how the entire criminal justice system is performing in all counties across the United States by collecting, analyzing and comparing county-level data.
“Amy’s work revealed a critical gap in our criminal justice system, and she developed an ingenious method for filling it,” Charles Bronfman said. “She epitomizes the concern for social justice and entrepreneurial spirit that the Prize recognizes. I am delighted the judges selected Amy.”
The Charles Bronfman Prize is an annual award of $100,000 presented to a humanitarian under 50 whose innovative work informed by Jewish values has significantly improved the world. The Prize was founded in 2004 by Ellen Bronfman Hauptman and Stephen Bronfman, with their spouses, Andrew Hauptman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman, to honor their father, Charles Bronfman, on his 70th birthday.
“The Prize is privileged to recognize Amy’s groundbreaking work to address injustices experienced in the criminal justice system,” said Ellen Bronfman Hauptman on behalf of the founders. “She will make an outstanding addition to an already exceptional group of Prize laureates.”
“I am honored to be recognized by the Charles Bronfman Prize, which will go a long way toward bringing to light the importance of open data and criminal justice data collection at the county level,” Bach said. “So many lives are impacted by the criminal justice system every day. We need make visible what is otherwise hidden. I am thrilled to see this work in the spotlight.”
The U.S. leads the industrialized world in incarceration, with only five percent of the world’s population but nearly a quarter of the prison population. Yet, its justice system lacks the fundamental data to determine whether spending is reducing crime, improving fairness or lessening repeat offenders. MFJ’s solution is to supply legislators, practitioners, change makers, everyone with the facts.
“The way you treat the vulnerable in society is how that society will be judged,” noted Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of the Prize’s international panel of judges. “Prison impacts some of the most disadvantaged. Amy’s initiatives go toward taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves, addressing universal issues of poverty, race, indigenous populations, the undereducated.”
Bach founded Measures for Justice, based in Rochester, NY, in 2011 as a follow-up to her acclaimed book, Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court, which demonstrated how well-intentioned prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys can become so accustomed to patterns of injustice, they no longer see them. She and her team developed a set of measures from arrest to post-conviction, and MFJ began collecting data to answer some basic questions -- who’s in jail, for how long, for what crimes – and compared the results across counties.
“Amy’s perseverance to create a transparency in criminal justice is really the story of what it takes to challenge human rights abuses everywhere,” former US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power declared in a letter supporting her nomination.
Last May MFJ released six states’ worth of data online -- available to anyone -- that can be broken down by race and ethnicity, sex, indigent status and age. MFJ is on its way to measuring all 50 states.
“Armed with data, MFJ is combining 21st century technology with age-old Jewish values,” said Georgia Levenson Keohane, former executive director of Pershing Square Foundation, which nominated Amy for the Prize and was an early key supporter of MFJ.