REFORM Alliance has named renowned criminal justice advocate Robert Rooks as its new CEO.
“I’m super excited about this opportunity at REFORM Alliance because we are going to be committed to building a million followers, a million reformers, a million volunteers, a million people committed to changing the justice system,” Rooks told CBS News on Monday (Feb. 8).
Rooks last served as the co-founder and CEO of Alliance for Safety and Justice, where he worked with politicians, legislators and community leaders to reduce over-incarceration. He was also previously on the executive committee of Florida’s Amendment 4 campaign, which worked to restore the voting rights of felons. In 2014, Rooks worked on the campaign for California’s Prop 47, which reclassified certain theft and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.
“Robert is a game-changing hire for our organization,” REFORM co-chairs Meek Mill and Michael Rubin added. “He has a proven track record of changing laws and is universally respected by leaders on both sides of the political spectrum.”
With Rooks’ new appointment, founding CEO Van Jones will move on to serve on the organization’s executive board.
“Robert Rooks is the most impressive organization builder in the space,” Jones said. “What he has done taking the Alliance for Safety and Justice from an idea to a multi-state, multiple victory game-changing organization is just genius stuff.”
“To get a chance to be on this board is unbelievable because now I’m going to be serving on a board with some of my greatest heroes, some of the legends of American society,” he added. “And we still have a lot to do.”
Rooks told CBS News he was inspired to get involved in activism after seeing the increased investment in policing during the crack cocaine epidemic, while community resources like social workers and programs stayed the same.
“It’s my hope [for] REFORM Alliance that we will continue doing what Van and his team have been able to do, which is to drastically reduce the number of people who are unjustly under the control of the criminal justice system by changing the laws, policies and practices that perpetuate injustice, with a focus on disabling the revolving door of probation or parole,” he said. “That’s the goal. You do that by changing laws, changing hearts and changing minds.”