Roundtable on Racism in Criminal Justice System

Smithfield, NC
September 2, 2020

The Johnston County Heritage Commission's Black History Committee will present a roundtable discussion on racism in the criminal justice system on Thursday, September 10, 7 pm.

Entitled "The Right to Breathe: Re-examining Racism", it will be accessible via YouTube (JohnstonNC Heritage) and Facebook (jocoheritage).

Panelists will include:

  • James Chapman, a professor of criminal justice technology at Wake Technical Community College;
  • Dennis Gaddy, a mentor to those transitioning from prison and jail;
  • Walter Martin, a former Smithfield policeman;
  • Jack O'Hale, a noted criminal defense attorney; and
  • Addie Harris Rawls, District Court judge and pastor.

Dr. Twyla Casey Wells, Vice President of Advancement and Community Relations at Johnston Community College, will serve as moderator.

"Studies show that historically African Americans have been more likely to be stopped by police, detained in jail before trial, charged with more serious crimes, and sentenced more harshly than white people," Heritage Center Director Todd Johnson points out.

"We are pleased to be able to bring together individuals who understand the issues and who can offer possible solutions to some of the problems in our criminal justice system."

Audience members can weigh in and ask questions remotely during the Facebook Live feed. This virtual event is the third discussion in a continuing series. Black voter suppression was the topic of the first session in February, held at the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield. "The Right to Live: Re-examining Racism in Health Care" was explored August 6. The fourth and final session will deal with racism in education (October 8).

For more information call the Johnston County Heritage Center at 919-934-2836 or send an email to

Chain Gang near Galilee Road, c. 1920