Racism and discrimination have no place in our society. And yet, racism and discrimination are woven into the fabric of the criminal justice system in Greater MSP and beyond.
This is not a new truth. It’s a truth that was known long before the murders of Daunte Wright and George Floyd. It’s a truth that has long been experienced by our Black and brown community members. It’s a truth that isn’t acceptable, never should have been acceptable, and a truth that is now our collective responsibility to change.
Last summer, the Greater Twin Cities United Way, the Minneapolis Foundation and the St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation came together to support Justice For All, a multi-year collaboration to transform the criminal justice system in Greater MSP. I stepped into leading this collaboration, with the belief that listening, learning and leading alongside people directly affected by the criminal justice system – those who have been incarcerated, on probation, arrested, their families and their communities – will not just reform, but transform, the system.
We started by bringing together a Community Advisory Team, which consists of people directly affected by the criminal justice system, and those who work within that system. We’ve been meeting for the past nine months to learn from a community-driven research process, which has conducted interviews and listening sessions with close to 100 people with experience of the justice system across Greater MSP.
We’ve heard that most first encounters with the criminal justice system occur when individuals are younger than 13 years old. We’ve heard that the process is dehumanizing, confusing, and certainly not corrective. And, we’ve heard that people exiting the justice system have few opportunities for work or education, making it difficult to re-enter society and contribute to their families and communities..
For many, the most difficult part of the justice system is that it tears families apart, separating parents and children, and further eroding the support systems of those who need it most and reinforcing historical and generational cycles of trauma .
In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to listen to those with direct experience in our criminal justice system, and collectively identify potential approaches and solutions.
As these approaches and solutions emerge, the Greater Twin Cities United Way, the Minneapolis Foundation and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation are committed to leveraging their privilege, resources, and the depth and breadth of their cross-sector relationships to actualize solutions emerging from this community-driven process.
Many truths have been laid bare over the past year. One truth is our collective complicity in the face of injustice, and another truth is the need for urgent, collective action to advance long-term solutions that dramatically reimagine, and transform, the criminal justice system in our region.
That’s what Justice for All is designed to do, and I look forward to sharing more updates in the weeks and months ahead.