Lessons Learned

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There is still a chasm between service providers, community-based non-profits, think tanks, researchers, philanthropies, social service agencies, etc. on how to reduce mass incarceration and create pathways for reintegration for the justice-involved.

We can all (mostly) agree that racism is a public health emergency and the bedrock of our criminal justice system, people are treated unfairly–especially BIPOC and other marginalized groups, and our system is woefully ineffective at addressing the needs created by inequities and repairing the harm caused to impacted people.

However, we don’t have a collective vision nor planning apparatus that is inextricably linked to the ideas and contributions of the people most impacted nor distributes decision-making power. Therefore, we continuously struggle with sustaining change, creating a unified approach to public safety, and implementing effective and restorative practices. We inadvertently prop up our current system with a myopic view of the causes for the pain, which largely hinges on the services we provide, the questions we choose to study, and where the money resides. Many will acknowledge this, but we must ask ourselves: have we truly attempted to dismantle and reframe the system, irrespective of our individual and agency/institution missions, visions, and goals? Are we willing to make the shift? How do we begin to upend structural racism and patriarchal command and control models of ‘doing the work’?

The Center will hold ourselves accountable and document our progress over the next year in the following areas:

DATA: We need criminal justice data; preferably data collection efforts that stimulate full participation of all the actors that are touchpoints to the criminal justice system; affords open access to anyone who wants it; is inclusive of the social determinants of health, and collected and analyzed in a way that mitigates bias.

TRAINING and EDUCATION: Everyone benefits from training on best and better practices to address the needs of individuals at the intersection of health and criminal justice. This includes evidence-based and evidence-informed approaches to not only services but also processes.

COLLABORATION: Our spheres of influence and engagement need to be shaken up. Circuitous conversations in rooms ‘full of familiar faces’ yields… (fill in the blank). A public health framework to criminal justice reform requires us to stretch and connect with agencies, organizations, and individuals representing all the determinants that make healthy communities.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE PLANNING and POLICY: Bail reform, supervision reform, access to safe and affordable housing, job employment and training, access to high-quality behavioral health treatment, educational opportunities…all of these areas are necessary to create a less punitive and more equitable criminal justice system, however, how are we marshaling resources to address our most pressing needs and subsequently evaluating outcomes so we produce effective policy? Presently, our system is challenged with the planning needed to address these areas and more across all agencies.

There is much work to do, but we feel these areas are the best path forward for 2021 and beyond. If you want more information or want to join us in these efforts, please subscribe.