Bryan Stevenson wins major Ford Foundation award for work on social issues

Bryan StevensonProfessor Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, will receive a Ford Foundation Visionaries Award as one of 12 social innovators working to improve people’s lives.

The $100,000 awards, created by the Ford Foundation in connection with its 75th anniversary, recognize Stevenson and his fellow recipients “for their pioneering work, exceptional leadership, and potential scale and impact of their visions.”

“Through these awards, we want to highlight the unheralded work of thousands of courageous leaders whose lives are devoted to improving systems and institutions so that all people have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives,” said Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation. “These 12 individuals represent the courage, commitment, and innovative thinking of all the remarkable people who work on the frontlines of social change.”

The globally dispersed honorees include a Peruvian indigenous women’s rights leader and a Kenyan political cartoonist. Stevenson was recognized for “challenging the injustice of poverty” through his scholarship and clinical teaching at NYU Law as well as his leadership of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization providing legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system. Stevenson has been particularly active on behalf of death-row inmates and children sentenced to life without parole.

On May 2, the Equal Justice Initiative honored retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens at a benefit dinner in New York. Stevens, who criticized the nation’s administration of capital punishment last year in his review of Arthur T. Vanderbilt Professor of Law David Garland’s Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition, made remarks at the event critical of the recent Supreme Court opinion in Connick v. Thompson, a case dealing with the question of prosecutorial immunity for misconduct. Both the Wall Street Journal blog and the Legal Times blog noted Stevens's criticism.

Posted on May 4, 2011