Andrew Phifer

AFJ Member Spotlight: Justice Policy Institute

AFJ Member Spotlight is a new series where we highlight the great advocacy work of Alliance for Justice member organizations. AFJ is an alliance of more than 100 national, regional, and local organizations working for a wide range of progressive causes. Click here for more information on the benefits of becoming an AFJ member organization. Today, Zerline Hughes, Director of Communications for Justice Policy Institute, talks about the organization and their Models for Change initiative.

What is Justice Policy Institute’s issue focus? justice_policy-logo

JPI’s issue focus includes a holistic approach to decreasing our reliance on incarceration. In doing this, we approach various issues under the umbrella of adult and juvenile justice including drug policy, re-entry, and racial disparities and look at these issues from a fiscal policy and public safety perspective and a positive social investment lens.

Current campaign: Models for Change & Baltimore Criminal Justice Grassroots Advocacy Network

We are engaged in the Models for Change initiative which  supports a network of government and court officials, legal advocates, educators, community leaders, and families working together to ensure that kids who make mistakes are held accountable and treated fairly throughout the juvenile justice process. We use research-based tools and techniques to make juvenile justice more fair, effective, rational and developmentally-appropriate. JPI also manages the initiative’s website and social media.

JPI is also engaged with the Baltimore Criminal Justice Grassroots Advocacy Network – a host of Baltimore and Maryland organizations and, individuals, including impacted people, that work to shape policies and reform the adult system. Re-entry, shielding [expungement and other ways to protect cases from public view], and life without parole have been some of the issues the Network has successfully worked on.

Tips and lessons: Collaboration

When organizing a campaign, releasing a report, or drafting a blog post that we want disseminated far and wide in an effort to impact policy and educate the public, the most important thing we’ve learned over the years, especially in these new times of relying on new media advocacy, is partnership and collaboration.

How has AFJ’s Bolder Advocacy initiative helped your organization?

We are… using AFJ’s Bolder Advocacy Power Check to strengthen our engagement with both advocates and interacting with policymakers.

Who inspires you?

Though JPI is not a direct-service organization, we do get a chance to meet and work alongside many people affected by our harsh criminal justice system. These are the people who inspire us to continue to work towards reform. Those that have family members and work tirelessly to ensure the rights of their loved ones are our inspiration. Those that send us letters from prison telling us about the harsh, draconian sentences they received are our inspiration. Those that have served their time and are struggling with reentering their communities as a result of the collateral consequences that are attached to having a record are our inspiration.

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