I’ve heard from so many people

My first year and a half at EJUSA has been incredibly rewarding. I’m so grateful to be part of a team of such caring people who fight so hard and so courageously to advance justice in our nation.

And I’m so grateful to you, our true partners in justice, who fight right alongside us and make everything we do possible. I marvel at how many of you have been with us for years, even decades!

Will you continue to fight with us? Please give a tax-deductible gift to EJUSA before December 31, and your donation will be matched.

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With Libations and Justice for All – a beautiful and successful evening with the EJUSA Associate Board

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I joined EJUSA’s Advisory Board in August, and this past Thursday I attended my first Holiday Party, an annual Advisory Board tradition to build support for EJUSA’s work.

While the last few months have put forth challenges as we process the difficult results of a tumultuous election cycle, there is tremendous reason to be positive. Even though the movement to end the death penalty faced setbacks in November, the momentum to replace a punitive and unproductive justice system with one grounded in victims’ perspectives and healing has never been stronger.

Equal Justice USA, and the community that surrounds it, has a great amount to look forward to as 2017 approaches. As a member of the Associate Board, a group of young professionals working to build support and spread the word about EJUSA’s work, my feelings of hope and excitement for the coming year were reinvigorated at this year’s Holiday Party.

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Newark community and police come together to explore trauma-informed responses to violence

Fatimah leading training in NewarkThe trauma of police-involved shootings and slain police officers has spurred national and local dialogue, incluing about racial justice, historical trauma, public safety, police accountability, and much more. This fall, EJUSA’s Trauma Advocacy Program spearheaded a new project to help facilitate even more dialogue – and develop solutions – in Newark, New Jersey.

“Trauma-Informed Responses to Violence: Police/Community Training Initiative”* has brought over 150 police officers and civilians together to learn and speak openly about their own trauma, the trauma they see around them, and the historical link between our current justice system, racial oppression, and slavery. With EJUSA staff and EJUSA-trained facilitators, small groups of 20-30 participants, police officers, residents, violence interrupters, social workers, and justice-involved citizens began to talk through the persistent obstacles to trust in the community and began the work of building mutual understanding.

The results have been deeply moving and transformative.

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Share a vision for justice that heals

Last week, voters in three states chose to keep the death penalty, even in the face of progress on other criminal justice reforms. Though these losses pale in comparison to the longstanding and continuing momentum away from the death penalty in the U.S., they reveal just how much our nation struggles with how to respond to violence.

EJUSA’s Executive Director Shari Silberstein presents a path forward with a vision for justice in a column, “What the death penalty taught me about trauma, healing and justice,” published on Virgin.com.

“EJUSA’s campaign to end the death penalty has given us a unique experience changing the narrative around how we respond to the most extreme acts of violence. We’ve learned that the justice system will fail everyone unless it serves everyone.”

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Better by halfThe Marshall Project
An interesting story from The Marshall Project about New York City: “New York City’s example shows that when the community and government work together, it is possible to have both half as much incarceration and twice as much safety.”

Killing Dylann Roof Wouldn’t Help Racial InjusticeTime
Next week, jury selection begins in Dylann Roof’s federal trial. Executing Roof will not rid us of the racism that fueled him and will not make the death penalty less racially biased.

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Three States to Watch if You Care About the Death PenaltyThe Marshall Project
Voters in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and California will face death penalty questions at the polls. The Marshall Project looks at what’s on the ballot in each of the states and what is at stake.

Baltimore Is Attacking the Roots of Violence with Public Health Measures—and Saving LivesScientific America
Violence is contagious and can spread from person to person, just like a disease. The Baltimore City Health Department is bringing down violence in some of Baltimore’s highest violence neighborhoods using a public health approach.

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Justices, give Duane Buck a second chance, CNN.com
Linda Geffin was the second chair prosecutor in Duane Buck’s case is now calling for a new sentencing in his case. She reflects on the racial bias that permeated Duane Buck’s case and our criminal justice system.

Being black shouldn’t mean a longer prison sentence, USA Today
The destructive myth of black dangerousness was heard in the highest court of the land yesterday – in a death penalty case out of Texas. Never has “broken beyond repair” been more apparent.

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The Weight of the [Heart] Work

Heart workEJUSA works with dozens of community groups and grassroots leaders who have dedicated their lives to reducing violence in their communities.

Daily, these groups – many of whom are volunteers – are on the scene when someone is murdered. They help de-escalate situations, act as the liaison between police and families, offer support to grieving loved ones, provide art therapy to young children who’ve been exposed to violence, counsel shooting victims in the hospital, and more. The list goes on. These volunteers are often women of color who’ve lost their own children to violence or former youth detention professionals who mentor children who’ve been victimized.

This is heart work.

But even heart work needs head work – specifically funds to keep the doors open and strategic plans to reach the greatest number of people.

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In memory of murder victims, set new priorities for action

Dorothy & ShariIt is more urgent than ever that we honor victims of violence by responding with healing, racial equality, and prevention. That was the message in an op-ed by EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein and Dorothy Johnson-Speight from Mothers in Charge, published this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

To commemorate the National Day of Remembrance for Murder victims, Shari and Dorothy joined together to call for a new approach to addressing violence – one that recognizes that violence and homicide are a public-health crisis that needs a public-health solution, and that solution must be rooted in racial equity.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for African American males ages 15 to 34. For too long, the response to this crisis has been aggressive policing and incarceration. But mass incarceration, traumatizing police interactions, and a lack of care and support for people who experience violence have all worked to further devastate low-income black communities.

More and more policymakers, public-health officials, and law enforcement officials are coming to realize that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. Yet the public dollars spent on violence prevention and survivor support are dwarfed many times over by the billions of dollars spent on corrections. The survivor support that does exist is far below the need, and it rarely gets to communities of color, even though they experience the highest rates of homicide and gun violence.

If we’re serious about building safe and healthy communities – and rebuilding communities most impacted by violence – our public dollars must reflect a different set of priorities.

Read the full op-ed here.

On National Day of Remembrance, communities call for an end to the violence

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Parents for Peace and Justice, a Chicago-based community violence prevent group, participates in the press conferences for National Day of Remembrance. Photo credit: Robert Torres

Community violence prevention groups from around the country gathered yesterday for National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims. EJUSA’s longtime partner, Mothers In Charge, and its affiliates and coalition partners held press conferences to honor their loved ones and to renew their call for investment in public health approaches to violence prevention.

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