2015 October 24

Al Bronstein, Leader of Prisoners Rights Movement, Dies at Age 87


Al Bronstein, pioneering leader of the prisoners rights movement, died on this day, at age 87. Bronstein was the founder and long-time leader of the ACLU National Prisoners Rights Project, from 1972 to 1995. Under his leadership, the Project challenged prisons or prison systems in every state in the U.S.

In 1964, bored with the practice of law in his uncle’s law office, Bronstein volunteered to go to Mississippi as part of Freedom Summer (June 21, 1964), a state-wide challenge to race discrimination that brought about 1,000 volunteers, mainly white college students, to Mississippi. He then became the director of the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee (LCDC) from 1964 to 1968, an ACLU project that provided legal assistance to civil rights workers in the south.

As someone once observed, Al Bronstein was one of many people who went to Mississippi and, in terms of a commitment to civil rights, “never returned.” His work for civil rights and civil liberties never ended. From his work with LCDC he shifted to become director of the ACLU National Prison Project.

Al Bronstein’s passion for justice came from hearing of his family’s experience in escaping the anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia, and also from his awareness of the Nazi Holocaust.

Among his many achievements and awards, Bronstein was in 1989 awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, worth $360,000, to continue his work on prisoners rights.

Read: David Rudovsky, Alvin J. Bronstein, Edward I. Koren, The Rights of Prisoners: The Basic ACLU Guide to Prisoners’ Rights (1988)

Learn more about Al Bronstein: http://www.eji.org/node/1167

Read the ACLU tribute to Al Bronstein here.


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