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Public Interest Attorney Bryan Stevenson to Receive 2024 Moynihan Prize

May 23, 2024 439

Public interest attorney Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, will receive the 2024 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize from the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Founded in 1989, the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI, is a nonprofit that provides legal representation to people who have been denied a fair trial, wrongly convicted, or unfairly sentenced. Through EJI, Stevenson — the Aronson Family Professor of Criminal Justice at the New York University School of Law — has argued several cases in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Moynihan Prize is awarded annually to a leading policymaker, social scientist, or public intellectual whose career demonstrates the value of using research and evidence to improve the human condition. “Bryan’s relentless pursuit of justice for poor and marginalized communities both reveals and helps repair the endemic racial bias in our criminal justice system,” noted Marta Tienda, president of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (AAPSS). “His fierce advocacy for the wrongly convicted is grounded in unvarnished evidence and inspired by the hope that our shared humanity will bend history toward equal justice.”

“I am grateful to be recognized among those who use facts and scholarship to combat injustice and improve public policy,” said Stevenson. He will accept the prize and deliver the Moynihan Lecture on Social Science and Public Policy on November 18 in Washington, DC.

EJI has won major legal challenges that have helped to eliminate excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerate innocent death row prisoners, confront abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aid children who have been prosecuted as adults. That work is captured in Stevenson’s 2014 memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, which in 2015 received the American Library Association’s Carnegie Medal for best nonfiction book and an NAACP Image Award

Beyond policy reform, the EJI also works to remedy the struggles of communities of Americans that have been marginalized by poverty and racial injustice. The EJI provides reentry assistance to formerly incarcerated individuals, publishes studies and presents research-backed recommendations to advocates, and creates educational content for a wide variety of audiences.

Under Stevenson’s leadership, the EJI also erected “Legacy Sites”—the Legacy Museum, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the Freedom Monument Sculpture Park—in Montgomery, Alabama. These spaces explore and address the U.S.’s history of enslavement, lynching, and segregation, ultimately connecting this legacy to mass incarceration and contemporary issues of racial bias.

Stevenson has received a number of other honors, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant; the ABA Medal and the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association’s highest honor; the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union; the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers; the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights; the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize from the King Center; and last year received the National Humanities Medal by President Biden.

Named in honor of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Moynihan Prize honors his legacy of public service informed by intellectual engagement and scholarship. Previous recipients of the Moynihan Prize include economist and columnist Alan S. Blinder, sociologist and professor William Julius Wilson, ambassador Samantha Power, and children’s rights advocate Marian Wright Edelman. A full list of previous winners can be found on the AAPSS website.

The American Academy of Political and Social Science, one of the nation’s oldest learned societies, is dedicated to the use of social science to address important social problems. For over a century, our flagship journal, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, has brought together public officials and scholars from across the disciplines to tackle issues ranging from racial inequality and intractable poverty to the threat of nuclear terrorism. Today, through conferences and symposia, podcast interviews with leading social scientists, and the annual induction of Academy Fellows and presentation of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize, the Academy is dedicated to bridging the gap between academic research and the formation of public policy.

View all posts by American Academy of Political and Social Science

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