New York, NY (May 12th, 2017) – An intimate group of Social Justice experts and enthusiasts gathered for a luncheon at The J.M. Kaplan Fund to discuss the work of 2015 J.M.K. Innovation Prize Awardee Liz Vartkessian and her organization, Advancing Real Change. Liz’s organization uses the practice of life history investigation to combat the trend toward increasingly retributive sentencing in our country. Her team conducts intensive investigations, using state of the art tools, on behalf of indigent clients who are at risk of receiving extreme sentences, such as the death penalty, or juveniles facing life in prison. The goal of this work is to provide a detailed picture of a defendant’s life so that prosecutors, judges and juries base their judgement on a fuller view of the accused as a whole person, not just on the worst set of facts about them.
The Fund selected Liz as a 2015 recipient of The J.M.K. Innovation Prize because we believe in the potential of her work to challenge dehumanizing narratives and evoke empathy, and we believe that doing so has the power to transform America’s overly punitive criminal justice system.
Please see a few photos from the luncheon, below.