Amy Bach Wins 2018 Bronfman Prize
NEW YORK, Sept 5 - Amy Bach, Founder, Executive Director, and President of Measures for Justice (MFJ) was today awarded the Charles Bronfman Prize for 2018. MFJ is the first organization to use data to publicly measure how the criminal justice system is performing from arrest to post conviction in all counties across the United States.
The Charles Bronfman Prize is an annual award of $100,000 presented to a humanitarian under the age of 50 whose innovative work, informed by Jewish values, has significantly improved the world. It was created by Charles Bronfman’s children as a surprise 70th birthday present in 2004.
“Amy’s work revealed a gaping hole in our criminal justice system, and she developed an ingenious method for filling it,” Bronfman said. “She epitomizes the concern for social justice and entrepreneurial spirit that the Prize recognizes. I am delighted the judges selected Amy.”
“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. By bringing to light the outcomes and unintended consequences of our system, officials will be able to make unbiased decisions about the improvements that need to be made. I am humbled 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 world’s prison population. Yet, America’s justice system lacks the fundamental data necessary to determine whether the money spent on our justice system is actually reducing crime, improving fairness, or lessening recidivism. That one in 6 black men has spent time in prison as opposed to 1 in 39 white men demonstrates that the system doesn’t work equally well for everyone. Measures for Justice’s solution is to supply legislators, practitioners, change makers, and everyone with the facts to make the system more transparent.
Bach, a graduate of Stanford Law School, became interested in the criminal justice system when she wrote her award-winning book, Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court, which demonstrated how well-intentioned prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys can become so inured to patterns of problems, they no longer see them. With seed money and a fellowship from Echoing Green, she founded Measures for Justice in 2011 to develop a set of measures to track the justice system from arrest to post-conviction. MFJ began collecting, cleaning, and coding county-level data to answer some basic questions—who’s in jail, for how long, for what crimes—and compared the results across counties. Last May—after six years of work—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 will continue to release data sets and is now on its way to measuring all 50 states.
“Amy's perseverance to create 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, who wrote a letter of support, declared.
As Ellen Bronfman, Charles Bronfman’s daughter and a Prize founder, noted, “‘Justice, justice you shall pursue’ is a central tenet of Judaism. Amy puts this exhortation to practical, meaningful work, which stands to benefit millions of Americans and provide a worldwide model.”
Amy founded Measures for Justice, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, in 2011. It has been funded by the Ballmer Group, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the William H. Donner Foundation, Google.org, the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Pershing Square Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Echoing Green, and the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. For more information, please visit www.measuresforjustice.org.
The Charles Bronfman Prize press release