PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia and its criminal justice partner agencies today announced the creation of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to support local criminal justice reform efforts.
This project is a part of Philadelphia’s participation in the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, a data-driven and collaborative effort to safely reduce the local jail population and to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in the criminal justice system. The Safety and Justice Challenge, a $148 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails, includes a $7.65 million investment in Philadelphia to date.
Philadelphia joined the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2015, and to date has launched 26 new programs and policy changes across the criminal justice system. While the local jail population has declined 40% over that time period, the rate of racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system has not changed. The City recognizes that, in order to increase racial equity, economic equity, and community safety, those who have been directly impacted by the system need to have a seat at the reform table. The CAC is designed to meet that need.
“The CAC is an important part of our efforts to reform our criminal justice system, because the unique experiences and perspectives of its members make them qualified to help move the needle,” said Mayor Kenney. “Welcoming community members to the table in this formal way will deepen our understanding, hold us more accountable to residents’ needs, and bring us closer to solving what has become one of our nation’s most pressing problems: mass incarceration.”
The list of CAC members can be found here. The creation of CAC is the cornerstone of a larger strategy to foster meaningful community engagement in the Safety and Justice Challenge. The Committee will:
- Help the criminal justice partner agencies better understand what is important to those directly impacted by the criminal justice system.
- Provide advice to the criminal justice partners on concrete ways to further the Safety and Justice Challenge reform effort.
- Create opportunities for the inclusion of knowledge and experience of community members of varying perspectives in the Safety and Justice Challenge reform work.
- Promote greater transparency and accountability of the criminal justice partner agencies with the community as it relates to criminal justice reform.
The CAC is comprised of 23 members with a wide range of perspectives who have either been directly impacted or who have significant experience with the criminal justice system. The CAC is made of individuals of different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and geographic parts of the city. CAC members will bring their own personal and professional expertise to the reform effort, providing a new set of ideas and points of view.
“Despite tremendous progress made, Philadelphia has much more work to do toward a fair, equitable, and effective criminal justice system that actually seeks to match deed with word by prioritizing rehabilitation and family unification to keep communities whole, connected, and safe,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “Through the CAC, we are stepping up our commitment to work with beloved neighbors most harmed by mass incarceration and mass supervision, in order to remake a system that failed to treat every one of us as equally human from the start. I’m grateful for our partners throughout the City and at the MacArthur Foundation, and am excited to continue this important collaborative work.”
The Community Advisory Committee will host at least six public meetings per year focused on the members’ reform priorities within the Safety and Justice Challenge. They will also host six community dialogues per year in various neighborhoods across the City in an effort to engage a broader range of community stakeholders in the reform effort. The CAC will also issue recommendations to the criminal justice partner agencies for consideration and will provide guidance on a forthcoming microgrant program.
“As we continue to fight mass incarceration and the rampant racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is critical that the community has a seat at the table,” said Keir Bradford-Grey, Chief Defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “Community members know better than anyone what their loved ones need and where the City should be heading. The Community Advisory Committee is an important step toward formally incorporating the community into the reform process.”
Members of the CAC will sit on the various Safety and Justice Challenge workgroups responsible for the ongoing implementation of the reform plan. These include the SJC Implementation Team as well as groups focused on pretrial reform, improving case processing, reducing violations of probation, reducing racial and ethnic disparities, reducing the number of people in jail with mental illness, improving data capacity, and fostering meaningful community engagement.
“With the support for criminal justice reform growing across the nation, there remains a deep divide between local government and the communities they serve,” said Josh Glenn, co-founder and co-director of the Youth Arts and Self-Empowerment Project and a CAC member. “Today, with the establishment of this committee, Philadelphia is taking a significant step forward to build community trust and shared responsibility for addressing mass incarceration, racial equity, and community safety.”
Each criminal justice partner agency has nominated a liaison who will be responsible for collaborating with the CAC, participating in events, and responding to recommendations or requests for information. The partner agencies include: The Managing Director’s Office, Philadelphia Department of Prisons, Philadelphia Police Department, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities Services, Defender Association of Philadelphia, District Attorney’s Office, and the First Judicial District’s Municipal Court, Common Pleas Court, Adult Probation and Parole Department, Pretrial Services Department, and Department of Research and Development.
Concurrent with the CAC announcement, the criminal justice partner agencies have released “Philadelphia SJC Implementation Phase 1 Report (2015-2018).” This is a detailed summary of the first three years of Philadelphia’s implementation of its Safety and Justice Challenge Reform Plan.
More information about the work underway in Philadelphia can be found on https://www.phila.gov/programs/philadelphia-safety-and-justice-challenge/ as well as on www.SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org.