JustLeadershipUSA and Association of Prosecuting Attorneys Collaborate to Issue Historic Report on Advancing Race Equity in the Criminal Legal System

February 14, 2023

Today marks the release of the report Building the Table: Advancing Race Equity in the Criminal Legal System, bringing together a diverse set of stakeholders to forge a path forward

NEW YORK — Today, JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) released a new report, Building the Table: Advancing Race Equity in the Criminal Legal System, which provides a historic roadmap of strategies to advance race equity in the criminal legal system.

The full report can be read here.

The report’s findings are the result of an unprecedented convening between representatives from all components of the justice system alongside community members, in particular those with lived experience, their families, and survivors of crime. This collaboration builds a foundation for policies that will successfully advance race equity, improve our approach to justice, and promote community safety and well-being.

“As people who are directly impacted and hurt by the criminal legal system, it is extremely important that our voices and leadership are a core part of any transformation that impacts our lives and those of our communities,” said DeAnna Hoskins, president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. “True authentic engagement is more than seeking our support at the end of systematic redesign, it occurs when the concepts of reimagining are led by those most affected, because our experience is our expertise. Our leadership as we ‘Build the Table’ is critical to advancing race equity and improving the system’s capacity to administer justice and promote community safety and well-being.”

This report and initiative were made possible through the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the efforts of those who volunteered their time and insights to produce this document.

“As we strive to advance racial and ethnic equity in the criminal justice system, it is critical that we elevate the leadership role of people with lived experience to ensure that their first-hand perspectives shape the creation of effective and meaningful solutions,” said Laurie Garduque, director of criminal justice at the MacArthur Foundation. “This report offers a framework for communities looking to advance community safety and wellbeing, and it starts with authentic community engagement and acknowledging the expertise of people with lived experience.”

This report is intended to equip federal, state and local legal system stakeholders to pursue new approaches to building stronger relationships with communities and the broader legal system. This consensus contains a unified statement of principles, policies and practical guidance to advance race equity in the criminal legal system, as well as recent real-world examples of policies and practices implemented by a variety of system stakeholders and community organizations throughout the country.

“Authentic community engagement requires forging trust between system stakeholders and communities, centering persons directly impacted by the criminal legal system in system decision making, and empowering them to act as equal partners in the shaping of policies and practices so that the system can fully meet the needs of communities, treat all persons equitably and with dignity, and realize greater justice, fairness, and safety for all,” said David LaBahn, APA president and CEO.

The strategies and recommendations presented fall into three broad categories of action agreed upon by all convening participants:

  • Coordinate action across system stakeholders and communities
    Stakeholders must prioritize authentic community engagement by recognizing the community perspectives as expert and akin to the professional experience of system stakeholders.
  • Invest in communities and systems to empower them to pursue equity
    Jurisdictions must invest in systems stakeholders and community organizations that provide vital services to communities, victims of crime and justice-involved persons to ensure that adequate time and resources are dedicated to improve equity without compromising the other essential functions of the criminal legal system.
  • Link decision-making to desired community-level outcomes
    Progression through the legal system should only be exercised if it meets the desired individual- and community-level outcomes of safety, justice, and well-being.

APA and JLUSA encourage justice-minded community members and stakeholders to join the coalition and begin implementing these strategies in their own jurisdictions by visiting: justuscc.org

###About JLUSA
JustLeadershipUSA is the national nonprofit building a national movement to decarcerate the United States. The organization—founded by and led by people directly impacted by the criminal legal system—is dedicated to amplifying the power of people who have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system to self-organize and empower their communities to dismantle racist and oppressive systems in their communities to build a just U.S. Learn more at jlusa.org.

About APA
The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) is a national non-profit whose mission is to support prosecutors in their efforts to create safer communities through a more just and equitable legal system. APA elevates promising and practical strategies to federal, state, local, and tribal prosecutors as well as their justice and community partners to enhance prosecutorial excellence. In order to address disparities and inequities in the justice system, APA strives to elevate the voices of victims, survivors, their families, formerly incarcerated individuals, and others with lived experiences through meaningful community engagement. APA develops resources to help elected, mid-level, and line prosecutors implement model policies and practices, all of which are featured on APA’s website. Through federal grants, private foundation, and member support, APA designs and delivers specialized training to tens of thousands of prosecutors and justice partners annually. APA works across disciplines to increase public safety and eliminate disparities in the justice system by providing prosecutors with the most effective and innovative resources and guidance to better serve everyone in their communities. Learn more at apainc.org.

Stephen Knight

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