2018 Thomas Merton Award: Arch City Defenders


The Thomas Merton Center is thrilled to present the 2018 Thomas Merton Award to the Arch City Defenders, for their visionary work towards racial justice and dismantling the violent criminal legal system. Past awardees include Angela Davis, Vince Warren and the Center for Constitutional Rights, Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Joan Baez, Malik Rahim, and Daniel Berrigan. The Thomas Merton Award honors people and organizations whose work for peace and justice makes a real impact in people’s lives, and who call on us to embrace the uncomfortable truths of our past and present while breaking open the possibilities of a better future we can build today.

Pittsburgh knows all too well that police and state violence disproportionately impacts communities of color. We also know that the legal system often hinders justice and alienates the people who need… it the most. Our national crisis of mass incarceration, police violence, and crminalization of poverty begins with the everyday injustices replicated in neighborhoods all across this country.

Arch City Defenders, based in St. Louis, is fighting back against this long-standing oppression in exciting and important ways. ACD is a civil rights law firm that uses a holistic approach to combat the criminalization of poverty and state violence. ACD strategically combines direct service, impact litigation, and advocacy to promote justice, civil rights, and systemic change on behalf of the poor and communities of color directly impacted by the abuses of the legal system.

You can find extensive coverage of ACD’s work on their website Their work in St. Louis, Ferguson, and the surrounding municipalities has created systemic changes while fighting for the rights and dignity of individuals targeted by racist policing, debtor’s prisons, and a criminal legal system that quickly spirals people’s lives into chaos. ACD describes their holistic approach to legal advocacy, this way:

“We currently represent people in more than 1000 cases and are committed to helping people get off the streets and stay off the streets. Whether we are helping veterans, people escaping intimate partner violence or keeping families together and in safe housing, we will do anything we can to help our clients.

Often, the legal challenge our clients face is the least of their concerns. Our attorneys routinely take clients to doctor’s appointments, help people move out of and into new apartments, give people rides to job interviews, and take kids to school. Our collaboration with social workers, organizers, and activists, and our trusted relationships with our clients is what distinguishes us from other providers of legal services to the impoverished.”

The Thomas Merton Award dinner will be on Wednesday, November 28th at 6 PM at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Oakland, Pittsburgh. For information about tickets, sponsorship, or event details visit or call our office at 412-361-3022.

Gabriel McMorland is the Executive Director of the Thomas Merton Center.

(TMC newspaper VOL. 48 No.8 October 2018. All rights reserved)


Categories: News

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