Since 2001, James Bell has been spearheading a national movement to address racial and ethnic disparities in the youth justice system. He is the founder and President at the Burns Institute (BI), which is named after civil rights pioneer W. Haywood Burns, was recently awarded the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. The award is presented to select organizations worldwide that have made a “remarkable impact in their fields.”
Bell and his colleagues at the BI work with youth justice systems across the country to reduce the disproportionality of youth of color. Mr. Bell guides the BI's Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY), a national network of programs working successfully with young people of color. Mr. Bell also works closely with the Casey Foundation’s JDAI jurisdictions and the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative.
Bell has extensive experience in the international youth justice arena: He assisted the African National Congress in the administration of the youth justice system in South Africa; recently worked with Chinese officials and policymakers on alternatives for proven risk youth moving from the countryside to the cities; and worked closely with officials in New Zealand and Australia to analyze the principles and practices that form the foundation of their restorative justice systems.
Bell is the recipient of a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship, the Livingstone Hall Award from the American Bar Association, Attorney of the Year from the Charles Houston Bar Association, the Advocate of the Year from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Moral Leadership Against Injustice Award of the Delancey Street Foundation and the Local Hero Award from the San Francisco Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award.
He received his JD from Hastings College of the Law.