Daryl Atkinson ‘07 receives the White House Champions of Change award today for his work on criminal justice reform issues, particularly removing the legal barriers triggered by contact with the criminal justice system.
Now an attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Atkinson pled guilty in 1996 to a first-time, non-violent drug crime and served 40 months in prison. Following his release, Atkinson completed college and law school and became a zealous advocate for second chances for formerly incarcerated people.
According to a White House press release: “The Champions have distinguished themselves through their extraordinary dedication and hard work to help those with criminal records re-enter society with dignity and viable employment opportunities.”
“This award is a huge honor,” Atkinson said. “To me, it really demonstrates the potential of every formerly incarcerated individual to achieve their dreams if they have the proper support.”
Atkinson has led SCSJ’s Clean Slate Clinics, and he previously co-managed the Collateral Consequence Assessment Tool, an online searchable database that allows users to identify the civil disabilities triggered by North Carolina arrests, indictments, and convictions. Because of his intimate knowledge of collateral consequences, he was chosen to serve on an advisory committee for the American Bar Association’s collateral consequence project.
Atkinson has been active in both the prisoner re-entry and legal service communities. He is a founding member of the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance, a burgeoning statewide coalition of advocacy organizations, service providers, faith-based organizations and community leaders that have come together to achieve the safe and successful reintegration of adults and juveniles returning home from incarceration. Most notably, Atkinson and the Durham Second Chance Alliance led the first successful Ban the Box campaign in North Carolina, which resulted in the city of Durham adopting an administrative policy that removed the question about criminal convictions from the city employment application.
To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions. To learn more about Daryl Atkinson’s work with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, visit www.scsj.org.