Rep. John Lewis and leaders gather to talk criminal justice reform

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Flanked by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, civil rights advocate Rep. John Lewis spoke in Houston today about criminal justice reform. (KTRK)

America's criminal justice system is one talked about around the world.

The incarceration numbers are astounding and for communities of color, there are real concerns, challenges and in some cases - disparities.

On Wednesday, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee held a forum about making the system better. Among the panelists was Congressman John Lewis, of Georgia. He spent his entire life fighting for civil rights and equality - and today was no different.

Young and old packed Pleasant Hill Baptist Church to hear from him, law enforcement officers, judges, attorneys, and advocates.

"If you look at the statistics, it turns out that most of the kids of color go to jail and stay in jail and that's going to change," attorney Joel Androphy explained.

The criminal justice reform forum addressed core issues like profiling, people in jail just because they can't afford bail, and harsh sentencing for non-violent crimes.

"You don't end a person's life for smoking a joint. You don't end a person's life for going into Walmart and stealing some simalac," Judge Darrell Jordan said.

We also heard from those who've been in the system, like Anita Thomas. She made some poor choices, and was behind bars - but is now working and contributing to society.

She feels for the families who've been ripped apart by unfair treatment.

"Some of the things we're in jail for is a little harsh," Thomas said.

Congressman Lewis agrees - and is working on it.

"We need to get over this idea of locking them up and throwing away the keys. We can reform our justice system," he explained.

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