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Community Engagement Strategies to Advance Justice Reform: Implementation Lessons from Buncombe County, North Carolina, Cook County, Illinois, and New Orleans

March 15, 2023

Communities across the nation are wrestling with how to identify and implement effective reforms that reduce structural inequities in the criminal legal system, promote community safety, and right-size operations of the criminal legal system to achieve more equitable outcomes and increased safety. Research suggests the most inspired and transformative solutions to such intractable problems come from collaborative partnerships between policymakers, criminal legal system leaders, and community members.However, many communities struggle with community engagement because of the strained relationships between the criminal legal system and communities that have historically been criminalized by that system or alienated by civic leaders. Fortunately, some communities have made marked progress. The MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) initiative to reduce the use of jails prioritized authentic engagement with community members across its grantees to build trust, enhance problem solving, and promote mutual accountability for justice reform.This report, which is part of a series of case studies highlighting the work of the SJC initiative, examines the community engagement strategies developed and implemented by three SJC communities: Buncombe County, North Carolina; Cook County, Illinois; and New Orleans. This report documents how these sites navigated challenges and advanced tangible reform efforts, and it explores the perceived impacts of these strategies on the sites' efforts to engage community members, reduce local jail use, and implement system reforms that advance equity. We conclude with a discussion of common themes in the sites' experiences implementing those strategies and recommendations for other communities seeking to advance community engagement.Sites used a variety of community engagement strategies, such as conducting listening sessions, hiring people with lived experience of the criminal legal system to organize events, and using art to receive community feedback on public safety.Common challenges from the three participating sites include navigating long-standing mistrust between community members and government, recruitment and retention in community engagement workgroups, and shifting strategies because of COVID-19.Recommendations and lessons learned from the three sites include ensuring proper resources are available to support community engagement efforts; communicating expectations and the likely pace of progress with community members; considering the accessibility of meetings; elevating the voices of people of color directly impacted by the criminal legal system; providing benefits to community members who attend meetings; leveraging technology to engage the community; and ensuring a diverse group of people is engaged.

New Orleans and the Hollow Prize Problem: Structural Limits on Black Political Power

January 10, 2022

Mayors in the United States often have more influence on the day-to-day activities of residents within their unique jurisdictions thanany other elected office. While each U.S. president holds significant power as Commander-In-Chief, the primary direct interface mostcitizens have with the U.S. Government is either through its taxing function or by receiving some form of financial benefit such as SocialSecurity or Medicaid. Each governor has wide powers in determining state funding priorities for highways, healthcare, and education,but not all citizens rely on these services to the same degree. Mayors, however, have a say in the provision of the services that residents use every single day. This includes water, sewerage, electricity, sanitation, roads, and drainage, to name a few.1

City of New Orleans Racial Equity Toolkit

December 17, 2021

The city we are today has been shaped by our deep and complex 300-year history. From the first arrival of African Slaves to this region in 1718, our Black community has played an intrinsic role in forging the city structurally, economically, and culturally, and we remain the most Afro-centric city in the United States. New Orleanians are no strangers to tragedy, disruption, and sometimes deliberate actions to disadvantage Black residents and all residents of color.Racial injustice and inequality are pressing issues in our city, especially as it relates to how our residents interact with City government. We have a moral and principled obligation to ensure equal opportunity, economic, and social mobility for our residents of color. The path to achieve this requires us to meet our residents where they are by providing equitable services throughout our daily work in each and every department. 

The Benefits of Community-Driven Green Infrastructure

October 13, 2021

Communities across the nation are increasingly turning to green infrastructure solutions as part of a multi-pronged stormwater management strategy. Green infrastructure refers to a suite of installations that mimic natural processes to slow and reduce the stormwater volume flowing into traditional stormwater drainage systems. Every gallon diverted from flowing directly to existing drains eases the pressure on conveyance systems and reduces the severity of urban flooding caused by storm drain backups. New Orleans is especially vulnerable to flooding and stands to benefit in numerous ways from the continued installation of distributed green infrastructure.Water Wise Gulf South (WWGS) in partnership with Greater Tremé Consortium/Water Wise Tremé, Healthy Community Services/Water Wise 7th Ward, and Upper 9th Ward Bunny Friend Neighborhood Association/Water Wise Upper 9th Ward has been installing green infrastructure projects in New Orleans since 2013. The Water Wise model relies on a partnership approach between community-based organizations that strive to reduce repetitive flooding, subsidence, and climate change impacts while also improving water quality. The partnership empowers diverse community members to implement green infrastructure solutions, addressing community concerns through educational and training support as well as community-building events.WWGS supports community-driven green infrastructure solutions that mitigate repetitive flooding and subsidence as well as improving water quality and reducing climate change impacts like sea-level rise. WWGS empowers individuals, neighbors, and communities through training and other events. As of 2020 the neighborhood organizations have conducted workshops, planted over 160 trees, and implemented over 142 green infrastructure projects that have added more than 48,450 gallons of stormwater retention capacity ranging. As the accompanying fact sheet shows, these neighborhood groups have completed other projects since 2020 that store thousands more gallons of stormwater. These projects include rain gardens, concrete removal, French drains, rain barrels, stormwater planter boxes, pervious pavement, and bioswales. Figure 1 shows completed projects and planned green infrastructure installations in these neighborhoods. To interact with this information and view the map in more detail please visit Economics (EE) analyzed the value of current and future green infrastructure installations by Greater Tremé Consortium, Healthy Community Services, and Upper 9th Ward to ground WWGS's advocacy with data-driven evidence for engagement with the City of New Orleans and prospective funders to increase installations of community-driven biophilic solutions. This report supplements a fact sheet of the analysis by providing additional context and references.

Black Funding Denied: Community Foundation Support for Black Communities

August 1, 2020

In light of the national uprising sparked by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (and building on other recent tragic movement moments going back to the 2014 murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri), NCRP is analyzing grantmaking by community foundations across the country to find out exactly how much they are – or are not – investing in Black communities.We started by looking at the latest available grantmaking data (2016-2018) of 25 community foundations (CFs) – from Los Angeles to New Orleans to New York City to St. Paul. These foundations represent a cross section of some of the country's largest community foundations as well as foundations in communities where NCRP has Black-led nonprofit allies.

Police and Data Collection: Why Louisiana Needs Reform

June 17, 2020

If Louisiana were a country, it would have the second-highest incarceration rate in the world, behind only Oklahoma. In 2017, the state Legislature enacted long-overdue sentencing reforms to reduce the number of people in prison. Though laudable and necessary, the 2017 legislation is expected to reduce Louisiana's prison population by at most 10percent. It is therefore only the first of many reforms that are needed to shrink Louisiana's bloated prisons.Sentencing occurs at the end of the criminal justice process, after the accused individual has been apprehended and adjudicated. Policing occurs at the beginning of the process. An officer's decision of whom to stop, cite, and arrestis the gateway to the rest of the system.Yet Louisianans know shockingly little about police activities in the state – even when compared to other parts of the criminal justice system. The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, for example, publishes quarterly updates on all prisoners placed under its jurisdiction, including their sex, race, convictions, and information about their physical and mental health.Without better data, Louisiana will not be able to evaluate whether or how its law enforcement officers contribute to the state's astronomical incarceration rate and what reforms should be prioritized. Police will not be able to improve their performance or refute criticisms that their practices unfairly target certain groups or that misconduct persists across an entire department. And communities will remain in the dark about how public servants who are licensed to use force carry out their duties.

New Orleans School Partnership Study: What Our Students Need and How We Can Help

June 1, 2020

We sought to foster educational equity by supporting NOLA-PS's work to raise the achievement of all students while erasing the ways in which their academic outcomes differ based on race, ethnicity, income, disability, and native language. So this report answers a few questions: what are the biggest needs our students face, and how are they being addressed? What can citywide organizations, like nonprofits, do to help schools address them? How will we be able to tell if that support worked?

Farm to Institution New Orleans

January 1, 2020

Farm to Institution New Orleans is a unique and innovative collaboration between Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation, the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee, and the Wallace Center at Winrock International. These organizations designed this project to create a more resilient and equitable local food economy through research, network building, and direct value chain coordination. The Farm to Institution team believes that shifting to a values based food supply chain is an effective method to keep small and mid-size farms in business while supplying New Orleans consumers with high quality, nutritious foods.

Public Libraries Respond to the Opioid Crisis with Their Communities: Summary Report

October 29, 2019

The United States is experiencing an opioid epidemic, and public libraries across the country are choosing to respond to this public health emergency locally. As central community institutions open to all, public libraries are finding themselves on the front lines of the opioid crisis. Together with community partners, public libraries are providing critically needed information and services, organizing education and training events, and supporting prevention and recovery efforts.In response to the growing opioid crisis in the United States, OCLC and PLA sought to better understand how public libraries are responding to the opioid crisis locally with partners. Eight public libraries and their respective community partners participated in this research study, which is based on interviews with library staff, library board members, staff at community partner organizations, and members of the community.This summary report gathers the findings from the eight public libraries, sharing the opioid response activities that were implemented, the funding and partnerships leveraged to do so, outputs from the responses, and opportunities and challenges the libraries faced.This research surfaced the following as major outcomes of the libraries' response activities:increased relevant resources made available to the community, such as naloxone and drug disposal kitsmade a positive impact on patrons' livesincreased community awareness and knowledge about the opioid crisisbegan to address stigma about substance use disorderincreased positive perception of the librarydeveloped new partnerships and expanded existing ones, resulting in coordinated efforts that better meet community needsreached other libraries and community organizations

Public Libraries Respond to the Opioid Crisis with Their Communities: Case Studies

October 29, 2019

This report includes eight research-based case studies highlighting varying opioid response efforts across eight locations in the US.The libraries are:Barrington Public LibraryBlount County Public LibraryEverett Public LibraryKalamazoo Public LibraryNew Orleans Public LibraryPeoria Public LibrarySalt Lake County LibraryTwinsburg Public LibraryThe report details each library's response, the partnerships formed, reactions of the community, outcomes of the efforts, as well as challenges, needs, and opportunities.  

Education Toolkit: Knowledge and Tools to Help Parents Advocate for Children

September 7, 2019

Toolkit to help parents effectively advocate for themselves, specifically by connecting their individual needs to the systems that were created to support them & their children.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Investment In New Orleans

June 11, 2019

In 2008, following the community's recovery from Hurricane Katrina, WKKF increased its support of children and families suffering from high rates of poverty and trauma, naming New Orleans a priority place for its investments. We partner with organizations, governmental entities and communities to transform New Orleans into a child-centered city where children and families can thrive.