We host an international conference every two years dedicated to innovations in community justice. Our most recent event took place in Birmingham, Alabama in May 2018.
Last week, we held our fifth international community justice summit.
Community Courts & Public Safety attracted more than 300 criminal justice reformers from dozens of jurisdictions around the world. It was a big tent. Both blue states and red states were represented, along with a wide variety of disciplines. The attendees included judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officials, formerly-incarcerated individuals, and community groups, among others.
The gathering, held in Birmingham, Alabama, was suffused with the history and spirit of the civil rights movement. Thanks to our hosts from the Birmingham Municipal Court, we attended a special reception at the Civil Rights Institute which offered a powerful reminder of the painful legacy of slavery and segregation—and the profound mistrust of the justice system that continues to exist among many communities of color. The conference program wrestled with issues of racism, fairness, and the disparate impacts of the justice system. It also connected the dots between the fight for civil rights and the need to enhance procedural fairness, provide alternatives to incarceration, engage communities, and reduce the use of fees and fines in our justice system—all key elements of community justice.
A few highlights from the conference:
Sheriff Jerry Clayton of Washtenaw, Michigan discussed the challenges of transforming the justice system, saying that “cultural change takes time” and that it is impossible to legislate the behavior of practitioners through policy.
Dr. Bryant Marks of Morehouse College talked about the potential benefits of addressing implicit bias, reminding us that, at the end of the day, institutions are comprised of individual people responsible for making dozens of decisions on a daily basis.
Visit the conference page for more information, including the agenda, photos, videos, and more.