2022 In Review: Justice & Safety Alliance

The Justice & Safety Alliance (JSA) is a coalition of organizations focused on achieving lasting public safety by truly reimagining policing, supporting proactive crime prevention, and increasing investment in safe, strong, and healthy communities. Over the past year, we led and supported some important progress in Shelby County, including releasing the Policing Reimagined report, running the J22 Campaign to increase voter turnout in the justice races, and supporting partner organizations in getting major bail reforms passed. 

Policing Reimagined

With the focus on the role of policing in our community, we aimed to set out a clear perspective by commissioning independent expert Dr. Duane Loynes (Assistant Professor of Urban Studies and Africana Studies) to author a report called Policing Reimagined to provide history, context, and recommendations around the issues of policing and crime. After the report’s release, the JSA hosted a follow-up town hall with the authors to discuss the report as it pertains to policy and investment solutions in Memphis. 

Dr. Loynes’ work shows us that safe communities are not those with the most police, but those in which people have equitable access to the things they need. Read more of the summary and implications for Memphis in our op-ed in the Commercial Appeal.

Justice-22 (J22) Campaign

During the Shelby County general election over the summer, the JSA ran the non-partisan Justice-22 (J22) campaign to increase voter turnout, specifically encouraging voters to vote all the way down the ballot in the races related to the criminal legal system. The August ballot was especially long because it included several judge positions as well as the State and Federal primary offices, so the risk of voter dropoff was high. Our goal was to turn people out to vote in the District Attorney and Juvenile Court Judge races, and we focused our efforts on Whitehaven, Westwood, and South Memphis neighborhoods. Through door-to-door and crowd canvassing, we educated voters about the role those offices play in youth and adults’ daily lives. 

Even though voter turnout continued to trend low, we followed the August election with ongoing Voter Engagement meetings to strategize for the future. We’re looking forward to developing some new deep canvassing programs in 2023 and continuing to encourage people to get civically engaged. 

Major Bail Reforms for Shelby County 

In late July, the Shelby County Commission passed the following reforms to our bail system that would:

  • Create a new bail hearing courtroom
  • Require individualized bail hearings with counsel no later than three days after arrest
  • Require examination of a person’s financial circumstances prior to any bail decision, and
  • Turn to money bail only as a last resort.  

We worked with Just City, ACLU-TN, Official Black Lives Matter Memphis, and the Wharton Law Firm for over a year to advocate for these reforms through a joint letter to and negotiations with Shelby County Government and Judicial officials. After a year of calling on them to stop the bail practices that violate the constitutional rights of people arrested in Shelby County, we now have momentum to create one of the fairest bail systems in the country. These changes are expected to be fully implemented by February of 2023, and we’re committed to supporting the new justice administration’s reform efforts however we can.

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