2019: THE YEAR OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
The Urban Research and Resource Center’s (URRC) along with the Barbara Jordan Institute and Harris County Racial & Ethnic Disparities Committee is launching a multi-layered approach to long term engagement of the community in order to work toward sustainable criminal justice reforms. We are rolling the initiative out in phases.
PHASE I—CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYMPOSIUM
The symposium is Phase I of the multi-phased initiative that uses statistical analysis, expert insights and community concerns and requests to produce policy recommendations and training, and other tangible outcomes designed to create safer urban communities.
The symposium was designed to address the essential role of policies and practices related to criminal justice in the development and sustaining of healthy and safe urban communities in the City of Houston. It’s primary focus broadly tackles criminal justice in a comprehensive manner through plenary sessions on various criminal justice and community safety topics communicated by local and state experts including community representatives and stakeholders; and community interaction/feedback. The underlying premise of the symposium is that the role of criminal justice in a community’s success is substantial and can have a dramatically effective result if treated from within the community as a partnership between law enforcement and the people in the community that they serve.
PHASE II—COMMUNITY HEALING
Following the symposium, the URRC will engage in Phase II of the Criminal Justice Reforms efforts, which consists of coordinated follow-ups with individuals, law enforcement entities, elected officials and community residents/organizations.
The first follow-up action will be a “Personal Experiences” event where members of the various criminal justice communities are able to publicly share and record their experiences of interactions with the entire criminal justice system. Such events have had some success in improving channels of dialogue between community residents and representatives of the criminal justice system as it helped the community heal. An essential part of our program is that we will engage law enforcement to share their stories in a holistic approach to healing and respecting the different perspectives involved in the criminal justice experience.
PHASE III—COMMUNITY OUTREACH
A major component of Criminal Justice Reform is Community Outreach. While the symposium itself is a major effort at community outreach—Phase III digs deeper to connect with the maximum number of community members and stakeholders possible to participate in critical and on-going dialogues about criminal justice reform and making urban communities safer.
PHASE IV—COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT & EDUCATION COMPONENT
In addition to community outreach, the Center has multiple community engagement components to gather input from throughout the community, including urban community residents, local lawmakers, city and county law enforcement officers, business leaders and high school and college students. As well, information will be gathered via surveys conducted during and after the symposium.
The Center will convene targeted workshops/sessions that will serve as “Listen and Learn” events to provide an additional layer of community engagement.
The URRC seeks to utilize multiple venues for Community Engagement and Community Education in efforts to impact policies and programs designed to deliver criminal justice reform.