Criminal justice reform advocate Adam Foss will be the keynote speaker for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation that will take place at 11:15 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, in historic Weaver Chapel as the 2018-2019 Wittenberg Series continues. His address is titled “A Prosecutor’s Vision for A Better Justice System.”
Recognized by the Mandela Foundation as the 2017 Nelson Mandela Changemaker of the Year, Adam Foss seeks to redefine the role of the prosecutor in order to help end mass incarceration.
In his former role as an assistant district attorney in the Juvenile Division of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office (SCDAO) in Boston, Massachusetts, Foss often held the power to make life-altering decisions about an individual’s future. He came to believe that prosecutors are “the most powerful actors in the criminal justice system” and that “the power of the prosecutor is to change lives instead of ruin them.”
Seeking to shift resources from incarceration to more positive and sustainable interventions, he founded Prosecutor Impact, a not-for-profit organization committed to creating safer communities through better education, training, and improved access to technology for prosecutors. A TED Talk he delivered on the subject in 2016 has surpassed two million views.
As a prosecutor, Foss helped to create several programs that benefit distressed neighborhoods in the Boston area, including the SCDAO Reading Program to bridge the achievement gaps and the Roxbury CHOICE program, which works to turn probation from a punitive sentence into beneficial relationships. He also helped initiate the first juvenile diversion program in Suffolk County to keep more young offenders out of prison.
Foss has received numerous recognitions for his work. Fast Company named him one of the Most Creative People in Business of 2017, and The Root named him one of the 100 most influential black Americans of 2016. In 2013, the Massachusetts Bar Association voted him Prosecutor of the Year, and in 2015, he was voted one of the country’s 40 most up-and-coming lawyers by National Law Journal.
Foss is a visiting senior fellow at Harvard Law School, a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, and a fellow at the Open Society Foundations’ Leadership in Government initiative. He earned a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School, which named him Graduate of the Last Decade in 2016.
While on Wittenberg's campus, Foss will participate in a Q&A session at 2:45 p.m. in room 105 of the Joseph C. Shouvlin Center for Lifelong Learning.
Now in its 36th year, the Wittenberg Series brings distinguished lecturers and performing artists of national and international prominence to the Wittenberg campus and Springfield community. To make special arrangements, request a Series poster, or become a friend of the Wittenberg Series, contact Lisa Watson at WatsonL4@wittenberg.edu. All Wittenberg Series events are free and open to the public. Doors open 30 minutes prior to the beginning of each lecture or performance. Below are further details related to this year’s Series.
2018-2019 Wittenberg Series Events:
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019: Vocal concert featuring South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, 7:30 p.m., Weaver Chapel.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019: William A. Kinnison Endowed Lecture in History, 7:30 p.m., Bayley Auditorium, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Fenn on “Sacagawea’s Capture and the History of the Early West.”
Wednesday, March 27, 2019: IBM Endowed Lecture in the Sciences, 7:30 p.m., Bayley Auditorium, featuring John Dovidio, author, Yale psychology professor, and leading researcher on aversive racism. Colloquium, 4 p.m., Bayley Auditorium.
For more information on the Wittenberg Series, click .