We write in response to the guest column published April 18 by the Daily Pennsylvanian.
The Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice is a nonpartisan, national research and policy hub producing and disseminating research designed to prevent errors in the criminal justice system. We take an interdisciplinary, data-driven, “systems approach” to identifying and analyzing the most crucial problems in the justice system, and proposing solutions that improve its fairness for the benefit of society.
Our research and programs are independent and unbiased, engaging all parties required to effect substantial change for the better — academia, the judiciary, law enforcement, defense and prosecution, legislators, forensic and social scientists, victims’ rights advocates, the media and others.
Many of the problems referenced in the guest column (e.g., racial disparities in the criminal justice system; wealth disparities in access to justice; and better regulating police to increase trust, improve accountability and prevent officer-involved shootings) are squarely addressed by the Center’s recent work. (Some of these topics will be discussed at our Spring Symposium this Thursday and Friday at the Law School, which is free and open to the public.)
We accept gifts and grants from a wide variety of government and private foundations who support our mission to prevent errors in the criminal justice system. Their support allows the Quattrone Center to conduct further research into ways the American criminal justice system may be reformed and improved, especially for those who can least afford access to legal representation. The gifts contain absolutely no restrictions or directions on the academic freedom of the researchers involved or the Law School or University more generally.
We also believe that critics concerned about systemic problems in our justice system should take a closer look at the efforts in this space of individuals such as 1977 Wharton graduate Frank Quattrone, his spouse 1978 School of Allied Medical Professions graduate Denise Foderaro, and Charles Koch. To be clear, Mr. Quattrone and his family know firsthand what it is to be charged and tried (multiple times) for a crime, to be sentenced to prison, and then the relief of having that conviction be overturned, with the case taken away from the trial judge and reassigned “in the interests of justice.” We know of at least 2,016 people across the country - and counting - who were not so fortunate, spending a combined 17,000-plus years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Since then, the Quattrones have dedicated themselves to preventing others from sharing a similar fate. Predictably, the vast majority of the wrongfully convicted are not people of means, and efforts to prevent wrongful conviction disproportionately
Similarly, the Charles Koch Foundation partners with groups across the ideological spectrum, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Open Society Foundation, on criminal justice reform, and is a national voice on topics including reducing excessive and disproportionate sentences, especially for non-violent felonies and minor crimes/misdemeanors;
Were it not for the support of individuals such as Mr. Quattrone and Ms. Foderaro, the Charles Koch Foundation and numerous other donors, foundations and Advisory Board members, the Quattrone Center would have been unable to produce research that has helped to place a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania, facilitated pretrial release of thousands of indigent defendants accused of minor crimes and enabled district attorneys from across the country to start conviction integrity units.
While some may be critical of the motives of these supporters of the Center, we doubt that the thousands of disadvantaged individuals who have already benefited from the Center’s work are.
JOHN HOLLOWAY is the executive director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at Penn Law.
PAUL HEATON is the academic director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at Penn Law.
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