Event flyer with text saying "LAW DAY 2021 ADVANCING THE RULE OF LAW NOW" and "An Afternoon with Obie Anthony" featuring a photo of Obie, the Exonerated Nation logo and the Riverside County Law Library seal

An Afternoon on Equity

I attended the virtual program “An Afternoon with Obie Anthony” on Saturday, May 1, 2021, made possible with funds granted by Book to Action. Obie Anthony, Director and Founder of Exonerated Nation, shared about his experience being wrongfully incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. The event celebrated National Law Day, held annually on May 1. 

Leading up to the National Law Day event, I read books that illustrate how racism and incarceration have always been linked in the United States. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (available in our LexisNexis Digital Library) provides a history of criminality, a term used to justify the mistreatment of people of color and the poor. How to Be an Antiracist, by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi helped me to peel back various layers of racist ideas that have circulated within the cultural consciousness and swayed me at different points in my life to see people of color in ways that are problematic and untrue. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, the book we are giving away while supplies last as part of our Book to Action program, shares the stories of some of the most heinous injustices that were committed by our justice system against undeserving citizens. The citizens were unable to defend themselves or receive equitable treatment under the law without the help of Bryan Stevenson and his colleagues. In the book, Stevenson asks if anyone, even those we’ve labeled “criminals”, should be treated the way his defendants were.

If you see incarceration and use of the death penalty against the 2,754 people in the U.S. who have been exonerated as a necessary evil, the author of The New Jim Crow would argue that the criminal justice system creates crime rather than prevents it. Read some exoneree stories from Obie Anthony’s organization Exonerated Nation here and from the Innocence Project here. The stance that the criminal justice system creates crime is largely due to the lack of support the incarcerated have on their way out, regardless of whether or not they have been found guilty of the crime they were accused of. Even those who have been exonerated struggle through the process of reentering society, which brings us to Obie Anthony. 

Mr. Anthony served 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The theme of National Law Day 2021 was “Advancing the Rule of Law Now” with the rule of law being a set of “non-arbitrary laws” which “apply to everyone equally” (Brown, 2021). However, the RCLL host of An Afternoon with Obie Anthony, Jenna Pontious, believes Mr. Anthony’s experience “demonstrates that the rule of law was not equally enforced or consistent with human rights principles.” When he was released from prison, he had to fight to get his social security records and he had to expunge his own record, which in a practical world would have happened automatically the day he was exonerated. Hearing him talk, not only about his own struggles but about what he has done to make life easier for people who’ve been exonerated after him through his organization Exonerated Nation, was both gut wrenching and inspiring. Pontious said, “Mr. Anthony’s desire to help others in the same situation as he, and his commitment to advancing the rule of law by supporting bills such as Obie’s Law  gives me hope that together we can make changes. I’m grateful that Mr. Anthony shares his story and that we were able to share his story with our community.”

You can view the recording from “An Afternoon with Obie Anthony on our YouTube Channel.


Brown, Kate (2021). What is power under the rule of law, found:  https://abateacherportal.org/what-is-power-under-the-rule-of-law/


By rcll

May 07, 2021

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