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BLSA Symposium: Changing the Horizon – Fairness in Sentencing

In observation of Black History Month, Regent’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) hosted its first ever symposium. The Saturday, February 19th event focused on “Changing the Horizon – Fairness in Sentencing.”

“The purpose of this program [was] to foster an academic dialogue about legal issues that affect the black community,” said a BLSA representative. “The dialogue explored the recent Supreme Court decision regarding disproportionate sentencing guidelines and how those guidelines have a disparate impact on the black community.”

The morning kicked off with a meet and greet breakfast generously sponsored by the South Hampton Roads Bar Association.

The first session featured guest panelist Dr. Valerie Wright, a criminologist who works as a research analyst for The Sentencing Project, and Professor and Director of Regent Law's Civil Litigation Clinic, Kathleen McKee. During the session they answered the question “If racial and ethnic disparities exist, how do we eliminate the gap?”

Next, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Newport News, Howard Gwynn, and Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney, Greg Underwood, discussed “The Reality of Recidivism – Public Safety vs. Offender Outcomes.”

In the day’s final session Dr. Wright and Professor McKee returned to address sentencing guidelines in a session on the impact of Kimbrough v. United States and the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 on minority communities.

The day concluded with participants attending a soul food café luncheon, where they discussed everything from the colloquium’s concepts and conclusions to classes, work, and personal lives.

The Regent Black Law Students Association exists “to promote community service in neighboring black communities and to be a vehicle of spiritual, academic and cultural awareness and support for black law students.”

For more information on the symposium and on the Black Law Students Association please contact

- By Molly Eccles

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