Advocate for criminal justice reform
Ellis Cohen Curtis was incarcerated for 25 years for involvement in the murder of Richard Harper. Having grown up in Sacramento with exposure to violence and crime from a young age, Curtis became embroiled in gangs as a young teenager. He was sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile - aged 17. Initially resentful, he found a path to reform while incarcerated. The Human Rights Watch took up his case and ultimately helped him to be released on parole.
Today, Curtis speaks out in favor of criminal justice reform and draws from his own personal experiences to evaluate the ways the system needs to change, and how we can prevent cases from his like occurring - both to prevent young individuals from joining gangs, and to allow them a chance to change. Curtis designs programs and processes for through networking in the south Los Angeles area to create dynamic resources for returning citizens.
Curtis detailed his experiences at The Common Good Forum & American Spirit Awards, 2019 on May 10, 2019, on the “Renewing Democracy” panel with Nicole Austin-Hillery, Max Boot, and Michael Waldman, moderated by Ari Melber.