Our work in 2019

#FREEnewyork: Last April, we achieved a historic victory: Working with our members, partners, and stakeholders to help spearhead bail reform legislation in New York State. In April, three bills passed to eliminate money bail for most misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges, require prosecutors to turn over all evidence 15 days after first appearance and prior to any plea deal, and address some of the long-standing loopholes that violate our constitutional right to a speedy trial.

#CLOSErikers: In October, three years after we began our campaign to close the abusive, corrupt and inhumane Rikers Island, the City Council voted to close the prison and shrink New York City’s jails system. The vote was a substantial win for our organization, and further proved the power of directly-impacted voices to effect change.

Since the launch of the #CLOSErikers campaign, the movement for closure has continued to gain strength and momentum for our demand that Rikers is closed forever and that New York City reinvest resources to #buildCOMMUNITIES.

#WORKINGFuture: Last year, Columbia, South Carolina passed a ban the box law prohibiting employers — including private employers — from inquiring about a job applicant’s conviction history on an initial job application. JLUSA’s Statewide Organizer, Lester Young, organized with the local community to help make this law a reality. Since launching in January 2019, the campaign has spurred ban the box victories in Columbia, Irmo, Richland and Aiken.

Nearly one-third of working age South Carolinians has a record, which can lead to a lifetime of stigmatization and barriers in employment, housing, and education. The new law will bring more equality and fairness to South Carolina residents, by prohibiting employers from considering a conviction history until after a conditional offer is made, and provides guidelines for how and when a conviction history can be considered disqualifying.

Safety and Justice Challenge

In 2018, the MacArthur Foundation awarded us a grant related to the Safety and Justice Challenge project. Our new task was to help determine what the community engagement had been between the SJC sites and the directly impacted communities in those sites.

As a result, last year, we began our national Impacted Communities Criminal Justice Roundtable Discussions, as part of our work with the Safety and Justice Challenge. The discussions took place in Philadelphia in November, and New York in December, with the DelawareNew JerseyChicago, and Baltimore discussions held throughout this year.

The discussions help create meaningful dialogue, and more effective community engagement between the Safety and Justice Challenge program and directly impacted community advocates and activists.