EJUSA recently secured its first-ever partnership with a health foundation – signaling a new leap forward in efforts to link public health and criminal justice.
There has been a lot of national discussion about the need to treat violence as a public health issue, or to use a public health approach to justice reform. But what does that mean, exactly? And how to translate that important dialogue into action?
EJUSA, with the generous support of the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey (HFNJ), will explore those questions in a new pilot program on trauma in Newark, New Jersey. HFNJ is a foundation dedicated to reducing disparities in healthcare in Newark. This investment in justice system transformation represents an exciting new area of commitment for the foundation.
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Violence is a public health issue. But few know that there is a small, but significant expansion of health initiatives across the country that are addressing the needs of survivors of crime, violence, and trauma, in the wake of community violence – and helping to actually decrease crime.
Philadelphia, a pioneer in trauma-informed models of care, has a larger-than-life team of researchers, medical doctors, and other practitioners that have developed programs and initiatives that have transformed the ways in which the health system can work along with the justice system to heal violence.
There is a growing interest in reimagining the relationship between the public health and the justice systems. Our coverage of the new report, “Stress on the Streets (SOS): Race, Policing, Health, and Increasing Trust, not Trauma,” last month highlighted innovative ways that public health and criminal justice reform organizations are collaborating to do just that.
Another example is a new collaborative organized in part by one of the report’s authors, Human Impact Partners. They worked together with the Vera Institute of Justice to organize the Criminal Justice and Public Health National Convening last November (with support from the Ford Foundation and Open Philanthropy), which I attended.
An important new report looks at the relationship between policing practices and public health. Stress on the Streets (SOS): Race, Policing, Health, and Increasing Trust, not Trauma, released last month by Human Impact Partners, the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative analyzed police practices in two cities – Cincinnati and Akron.
“The tension and distrust between people of color and police in the United States is an underestimated public health crisis,” the report opens. “Shocking cases of mistreatment, injury, and death grab headlines and go viral on social media, but the mental, emotional, and behavioral impacts of this fraught relationship affect communities of color and police officers in ways less often discussed.” Continue Reading →
The Partnership for Safety and Justice, a criminal justice reform organization in Oregon, just launched a new website, Help.Hope.Heal, for people whose friends or family members have been harmed by crime or violence. The website includes advice and resources to help you learn what to say and do to support your friend and yourself, so that you can be the best caregiver you can be. The site is beautiful and inviting.
By now, many have heard about the recent incident at Spring Valley High School, where a South Carolina deputy slammed a young African American girl to the ground, dragged her on the floor, and handcuffed her for disobeying school rules. Several videos have gone viral and spurred national dialogue about the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a framework that connects harsh school disciplinary practices (such as zero tolerance policies) and increased presence of school police with the eventual incarceration of young people. Research suggests that the criminalization of youth behavior disproportionately impacts African American children and children with physical/emotional disabilities.
On September 25, in honor of National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, I spent time reaching out to several family members of murder victims. Some survivors shared the traditions they have developed over the years to mark the day, including visiting burial grounds or viewing commemorative videos and photographs. Others told me that the day was just as difficult as any other day of loss and grief.
For Tamika Darden-Thomas, an African American resident of Newark, New Jersey, sharing her story with others has been a source of great healing, and she was eager to also share it with me.
Last month, we introduced you to the expansion of our work to build a better justice system, including two new staff. I had the opportunity to sit down with one of them, Fatimah Loren Muhammad, and learn about her first few weeks, what a “trauma-informed” justice system means, and her vision for this first year.
Sarah Craft: I know you’re still getting your feet wet, but what do you see as the goals of the Trauma Advocacy program in the first year?
Fatimah Loren Muhammad: First of all, I want to start by saying how absolutely excited I am to join the EJUSA team. These past few weeks have been wonderful connecting with the staff and board members and the greater EJUSA community, many of whom have sent emails of encouragement as I begin my work here.
For 25 years, you’ve helped us tackle one of the most serious flaws in the U.S. justice system: the death penalty. We’re not done with that work. But you know what? We’re almost there. Really.
So what’s next when we end the death penalty?
We believe it’s not enough to just dismantle the parts of the justice system that aren’t working. We also have to build up the system we want in its place.
Today, we’re expanding that part of our work with two new programs that I’m thrilled to share with you:
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In an early-May issue of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin tells the story of one prosecutor’s effortsto combat mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on African Americans. In the story, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm comes to realize that racial disparities exist not only at the incarceration level but also in how the system treats crime victims.
As EJUSA Executive Director Shari Silberstein outlines in a letter to the letter to the editor, published in response to the article: “There is a growing national recognition that racial inequality extends to victimization—people of color are more likely to be victims of violent crime than white people.”