Derecka Purnell, JD

Derecka Purnell is a human rights lawyer, researcher, and author of Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom. She works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and training in community-based organizations through an abolitionist framework. 

Her writing has been published widely, including in The Oxford Handbook of Race and Law in the United States (forthcoming), The Harvard Journal of African American Policy, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New York Magazine, Boston Review, Teen Vogue, and Harper's Bazaar. Purnell has lectured, studied, and strategized around social movements across the United States, The Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

She is currently a columnist at The Guardian and a Scholar-in-Residence at Columbia Law School.

Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom

For more than a century, activists in the United States have tried to reform the police. Millions of people continue to protest police violence because these “solutions” do not match the problem: the police cannot be reformed.

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Grief Over Time

In this piece on grief over time, Derecka Purnell writes a moving article on meeting Sybrina Fulton, who lost her son Trayvon Martin ten years ago.

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Becoming Abolitionists – A History of Failed Police Reforms & Vision for True Public Safety

Marguerite Casey Foundation will host a conversation with Becoming Abolitionists author, lawyer and organizer Derecka Purnell, UCLA History Professor, writer and celebrated American historian Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley and our President & CEO Dr. Carmen Rojas.

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Questions about the Freedom Scholar awards can be sent to freedomscholars@caseygrants.org.