Our mission is to empower local leaders to implement innovative and practical solutions to problems in the criminal justice system. We use an approach that is bipartisan and includes all relevant stakeholders. Consistent with this mission, we will be awarding two exceptional African-Americans (one man and one woman) that have a demonstrated commitment to promoting criminal justice reform in a bipartisan fashion with measurable results at the national, state or local level.
Online voting has closed. Winners to be announced September 12!
The Awardees will be announced during our Third Annual Bipartisan Justice Awards Reception on September 12, 2019, from 4 pm to 7 pm in Washington D.C. (during the CBCF's Annual Legislative Conference).
Female Award Finalists (vote for 1)
Meme (Mee-Mee) Styles
President & Founder, MEASURE
Meme (mee-mee) Styles, is the President and Founder of the award winning nonprofit MEASURE, a public education & advocacy organization that empowers people to use data to tell their own story. Ms. Styles created MEASURE in 2015 to build trust and measurable progress between people and institutions that serve them. MEASURE is building an ecosystem whereby advocates can share social justice research and data. The organization is also responsible for mobilizing communities to address systemic disparities in health, economics, criminalization & education. She is a global thought leader for community engagement strategies, evidenced based policing and is responsible for the annual Big Data & Community Policing Conference + Workshop. These FREE trainings brings together activists, law enforcement, researchers and technology experts to explore community policing and evidence based policing.
Styles is also the creator of EarlyAware.com, a sticker alert system & tech-solution that informs first responders about an individual communication barrier, cognitive issue or physical disability before and during an emergency. Her work is confirmed by her theory of change that if people are empowered to use data it will provide a common language upon which community members can meet, understand the causes and impacts (over criminalization, public health, etc.) of various institutional practices, and work together to create equitable change and increased awareness. She holds a Bachelor’s of science in communication, completing a Masters of Public Education and received a PuMP Performance Measurement certification from George Mason University.
Candance J. Wesson
Founder/Director, The Help Reentry Program
Candance Wesson is a product of the Kansas City, Missouri School District. She became a mother at the young age of 16 and was often told from family members and friends that she would not graduate; nonetheless, she graduated high school on time with her class and went on to attend a community college. In 2009, the job market shifted and jobs became difficult to find and maintain. So, in order to provide for her daughter and herself, Candance became involved in a tax scheme in which she ultimately pled guilty to, as a first time non-violent tax offender in 2012. Upon turning herself in to authorities to begin her 20-month sentence, unknowingly, she was told that she was seven weeks pregnant.
During her incarceration, she was bounced around to three institutions that were far away from family and her support network. She served a total of eleven months in custody, six months in an under-resourced reentry center resources, and three years of supervised release. The vision of The Help (a reentry program for women) was revealed to Candance as a result of her personal experiences. These experiences included the challenges associated with women being incarcerated and the long-term traumatic experiences; from giving birth to her son while in custody, inadequate medical care and mental support, to lack of adequate counseling services to cope with being separated from her child or her post-partum depression.
Upon release from prison, Candance was determined to reenter society and be a positive influence and contributor to her community. She sought employment with over 20 different companies only to be shunned and rejected due to her felony conviction. It then became crystal clear to her that her past mistake could possibly overshadow her future and her ability to help support her family. She was still determined to make a difference in her community, and allowed her challenges to be her motivation. In 2016, The Help finally launched. Since that time The Help has helped close to 200 women with reentry initiatives in the areas of life-skills training, employment, and health care referrals through a partnership with Swope Health Services, toiletries, transportation assistance, counseling and other services.
Male Award Finalists (vote for 1)
Executive Director, Austin Justice Coalition
Chas Moore is the co-founder of the Austin, Texas based - Austin Justice Coalition a grassroots activist-led organization aimed at demanding criminal justice reform and building community at both the local and national level. An advocate for the underserved, Chas champions efforts that deliberately meet community needs like back-to-school drives, fundraisers for those who have been brutalized by police, feeding the hungry and pioneering programs for black youth, men and women. Chas Moore believes that hope for equality and generational change must begin with the reshaping and reclaiming of a black community. Chas Moore believes that hope for equality and generational change must begin with the reshaping and reclaiming of a black community.
Co-Founder & Vice President, Alliance for Safety and Justice
Robert Rooks is one of the premier criminal justice reformers in the country with more than 20 years experience. His work in the political and legislative arena over the past two decades has achieved landmark wins in criminal justice reform. Robert is co-founder and Vice President of Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ), where he leads state-based advocacy strategies across the nation. His leadership has been instrumental to the enactment of policies that are now reducing prison populations in California, Illinois, Florida and Michigan by more than 40,000 people and increasing investments into community prevention programs by millions of dollars. Examples include California’s Proposition 47 and 57 to reduce state imprisonment and allocate savings to treatment, Illinois’ SB 2872 to eliminate mandatory prison sentences and build trauma recovery centers, and Florida’s AB 7125 Florida to expand alternatives to incarceration and increase victim services. Robert also played a strategic leadership role in Florida’s historic Amendment 4 campaign to restore voting rights for people with past convictions. The campaign garnered national attention and is now giving hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to vote.
In each effort, Robert’s steadfast leadership has combined investing in people directly impacted while reaching out to liberals, conservatives and law enforcement to build diverse support. It has been a tremendous formula for transformation and success. To help train other leaders, in 2019, Robert established the Campaign Academy for Safety and Justice as a training program for justice reformers, especially people of color and those directly impacted by crime and/or incarceration, to develop high-level campaign expertise and skills. It just graduated its first cohort of 35 people, from grassroots community organizers to executive directors. Grounded in his personal experience of growing up in a community impacted by violence, his work to create trauma recovery centers for victims of violent crime has led to the opening of these centers across the country. Through his work with Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ), Robert has built a powerful constituency of survivors nationwide who are advocating for policies that both reduce incarceration and increase support survivors. Previously, Robert served as the National Criminal Justice Director for the NAACP. Robert also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and St. Joseph’s College, and at Central Connecticut State University.
South Carolina Statewide Organizer, Just Leadership USA
Lester Young is the South Carolina Statewide Organizer for Just Leadership USA. As an organizer, Lester focuses on educating those whom have been directly and indirectly impacted by the criminal justice system. Our campaign, “#WORKINGfuture /Ban the Box” is removing the systemic barrier to employment, housing and education for those with felony convictions. Lester Young Jr., is a native of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. At the age of 19, Lester was given a life sentence (with the possibility of parole after serving 20 years). During his time in prison, Lester watched young men coming into prison. The looks on their faces revealed they had no idea how their life was about to change. It was then that he realized his purpose was to be “that” voice to help those entering prison, understand the importance of change. Lester along with the prison chaplain, began meeting to create templates, outlines, programs, and classes to instruct and mentor those incarcerated. This is where the idea of him establishing his non-profit organization “Path2Redemption” got its start. After serving 22 years and 5 months, Lester was granted parole on May 15, 2014. Five years later, Lester’s first book, “The 5 Stages of Incarceration” was published. His non-profit organization hosts workshops to formerly incarcerated individuals that require assistance with their transformation back into society. Lester talks about the need to dismiss triggers of past behaviors, coping with being home, job preparations, and dealing with let downs.