“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”
-Thomas More, Utopia
-Thomas More, Utopia
In 2010 the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section launched the Racial Justice Improvement Project (RJIP), with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). RJIP is currently conducting reform in the following project sites: Dane County, Wisconsin; Montgomery County, Pennsylvania; North Carolina; and New Orleans, Louisiana (Municipal Level).
The RJIP was originally a two-year, federally funded initiative designed to identify and reform policies and practices that produce racial disparities in local criminal justice systems across the country. The original task force groups included Delaware (statewide); St. Louis County, Minnesota; Kings County, New York; and New Orleans, Louisiana, each of whom received financial support and technical assistance to implement a local racial justice improvement task force focused on addressing problems contributing to the racially disparate impact of their local criminal justice system.
In June 2013, RJIP received additional funding from the Public Welfare Foundation (PWF) to sustain their reform efforts. Each of the four original sites are in the process of evaluating their reforms’ effectiveness, and are working to continue, expand, and sustain their current reform efforts. The Project Staff is working to create a promising practices report and a task force replication guide to assist other jurisdictions in implementing criminal justice reform using the RJIP reform model.
The RJIP Advisory Board chose all of the project's reform sites through an evaluative process, overlooked by an independent evaluator. The four additional jurisdictions that began participating in the project in 2013 can be viewed here.
View our Request for Proposal for more information Request For Proposal (RFP)
On June 7, 2013 the Task Force members of the four new jurisdictions
attended a kickoff training conference at The George Washington
University Law School in Washington D.C.
Each jurisdiction looks to identify a racial disparity within their local criminal justice system and works on a policy reform that could reduce or eliminate that disparity without any change in law or legislative enactment.
The Delaware task force has focused its reform efforts on the disproportionate number of African Americans that are subject to probation violations.
The New Orleans, Louisiana task force has worked on expanding the number of minorities eligible to participate in the District Attorney’s pretrial diversion program and increasing the capacity of the diversion program to serve the growing local Latino community. In addition, the Task Force had planned stages of creating an accelerated diversion program for defendants charged with nonviolent first time property crimes.
The New Orleans, Louisiana (Municipal) task force recently embarked on creating a Prostitution Diversion Program on the municipal level, in collaboration with Women with a Vision, a local nonprofit.
The Kings County, New York task force is focusing on addressing racial disparities that exist among minority juveniles. The task force has created a juvenile diversion program utilizing a curriculum provided by the Center for Court Innovation and The Young Newyorkers (local nonprofit). The task force developed implicit bias training and adolescent training for judges and attorneys.
The St. Louis County, Minnesota task force is addressing the over-representation of African American and Native American arrestees in pretrial detention and the disparate (higher) bail imposed on individuals from these ethnic groups.
The Dane County, Wisconsin task force is addressing the overwhelming minority population harshly sentenced for corporal punishment crimes. They are currently organizing a training workshop in June 2014 regarding implicit bias, cultural competency, and key components of diversion for local stakeholders.
The North Carolina task force is currently accumulating data in pretrial bail and detention settings. They are currently working on developing a training workshop for local judges and probation officers regarding best practices in bail setting procedures.
The Pennsylvania task force has concluded a data assessment identifying racial disparities in sentencing of juveniles in misdemeanor theft crimes. The task force is working to establish a local juvenile diversion program to address the problem identified.
Project News: The Racial Justice Improvement Project was nominated for the the HiiL Innovating Justice Award 2013.
Project News: The ABA Criminal Justice Section's Racial Justice Improvement Project was selected to present to the Bureau of Justice Assistance at their Annual BJA Enrichment Day on January 29, 2014 in Washington D.C. RJIP is one of just three BJA-funded projects chosen to present at this day-long conference and discuss promising practices, project developments, technical assistance, and findings. Project Director, Salma S. Safiedine; Project Evaluator, Inga James; New Orleans Task Force Facilitator, Jee Park; Delaware Task Force Facilitator, Amy Quinlan; and RJIP Intern, Amanda Galbo presented.
The Racial Justice Improvement Project received the 2011
American Bar Association SOC Meritorious Service Award.
The award is given each year to a project that demonstrates
outstanding commitment and work in the legal field.
Pictured above is Jack Hanna, Criminal Justice
Section Grant Director; Kim Ball, Bureau of Justice
Assistance Policy Advisor; Cynthia Jones, Professor of Law at
American University Washington College of Law; and Salma S.
Safiedine, Project Director
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