PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia and its criminal justice partner agencies today announced new members to the Criminal Justice Community Advisory Committee (CAC). Today, 16 new community members from across the city will join the CAC with the specific goal of helping to advance racial equity in the criminal justice system.
The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) launched in 2019 to create meaningful partnership and integrate community perspectives in local criminal justice reform efforts. Over the past two years, the CAC has been engaged in every aspect of the reform effort. The Committee has shared their expertise during planning and implementation meetings, hosted community town halls, and issued both formal and informal recommendations. More information about CAC’s work is available online.
The CAC was established as part of Philadelphia’s participation in the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, a data-driven and collaborative effort to advance safety and racial equity while reducing the local jail population. Philadelphia joined the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2015, and since then has launched more than 30 new programs or policy changes. While the local jail population has declined by 40 percent, seeing its highest drop during the height of the pandemic, the rate of racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system has not changed. The City recognizes that to be committed to 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 uniquely designed to meet that need.
“Over the past two years, the CAC has been critical to our efforts to reform the criminal justice system. The unique experiences and perspectives of its members have helped us put racial equity at the center of the reform effort,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “We know that the government cannot address racial disparities on our own, we are grateful to the CAC for being part of the important work of finding solutions.”
“This new slate of CAC members will help grow the capacity of the community to best advocate for the community,” said Devren Washington, Chair of the Community Advisory Committee. “With so many pressing issues facing Philadelphia’s criminal legal system, the new members will have a real stake in advocating for a more just Philadelphia.”
The list of current and new CAC members can be found here. The CAC is the cornerstone of a larger strategy to foster meaningful community engagement in criminal justice reform. The Community Advisory Committee will continue to:
- 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.
With the new members, the CAC has 27 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 areas 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.
“Racial inequities pervading the criminal justice system became entrenched over decades of discriminatory and harmful policies. We must be impatient to correct injustices, while always centering community health and safety,” said District Attorney Larry Krasner. “Unwinding establishmentarian approaches and undoing harm is difficult, time-intensive, laborious work. I want to thank CAC members for stepping up for their communities, so that we may all work more effectively toward making Philly’s criminal legal system more fair, more just, and more effective at making us safe.”
The Community Advisory Committee has been steadfast in their commitment to the reform effort during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The pandemic has required a shift to the CAC’s work but they have continued their commitment to engaging in the reform effort during that time. Going forward, the CAC will continue to host public meetings and community dialogues, issue recommendations, and provide guidance on the Criminal Justice Microgrant Program.
“Philadelphia is at a critical juncture. There is a pressing need to implement meaningful justice system reform that enhances public safety,” said Acting Chief Defender Alan Tauber. “The only way to achieve that is to incorporate the voices of the people who are most impacted by the decisions we make as a justice system. Working with the groups that make up the CAC is the best way to ensure we’re having the right conversations with all system stakeholders. They have the best sense of the challenges our neighborhoods face, and of the available community resources we can tap into to solve these problems.”
“The new and current CAC members are vital in continuing to ensure community voices are front and center in addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the Philadelphia Criminal Justice System,” said Brittany Weston, Vice Chair of the CAC. “We are looking forward to completing the onboarding with our new members so they can hit the ground running to further the CAC’s goals.”
Each criminal justice partner agency has nominated at least one liaison who will be responsible for collaborating with the CAC, participating in events, and responding to recommendations or requests for information. The partners 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 of Pennsylvania.
More information about the work underway in Philadelphia can be found online at phila.gov/programs/philadelphia-safety-and-justice-challenge/ as well as at SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org.