Justice Reform in America: An Action Plan

Aug 19, 2015

America has a problem with violence – we create too much of it here at home and export too much of it around the world. As an independent candidate for President of the United States, my solutions for reducing and preventing violence are the heart of my campaign platform - Fix Government, Build Peace.  My action plan is a comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent violence; transform law enforcement into a community policing model that uses best practices to build stronger communities; repair the damage done by our broken justice systems; and rebuild trust in justice and law enforcement in America so together we can improve public safety.

Letter from the Candidate:

America has a problem with violence – we create too much of it here at home and export too much of it around the world. As an independent candidate for President of the United States, my solutions for reducing and preventing violence are the heart of my campaign platform - Fix Government, Build Peace.

I have worked on issues related to violence for over 35 years. In the 1970s, I studied the group dynamics of peacemaking for my doctoral research. My 1988 book, Peacemaking: A Systems Approach to Conflict Management, described the technology, psychology, theory and application of peacebuilding. In 1994, I designed a citywide Summit on Violence for Cleveland, Ohio where 1,000 residents worked together on action plans for twenty topics – from drugs and guns to gangs and the role of police in local neighborhoods.

From early 2001 through 2003, I worked on aviation’s plan to modernize our airspace system – the gold standard for a complex model with many partners. In 2005, I helped the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services in Washington, D.C. develop their plan for transforming juvenile services. From 2010 to 2012, I worked on the plan to transform New York City’s Department of Probation.

I still work on action plans to reduce and prevent violence in America and shift our foreign policy toward peacebuilding. Now, I do this as a Presidential candidate committed to solving America’s problems with over-aggressive policing, mass incarceration, inhumane juvenile justice systems, institutional violence including the “school-to-prison pipeline” and the high rates of arrest, injury, death and incarceration of people of color.

A comprehensive plan to address these problems is more than a list of actions. So, I organized my plan around six goals (what has to be done) with strategies (how to move forward) and then specific actions (exactly how to get results). For me, justice reform is a national priority. I personally wrote this action plan. I look forward to your comments.

Lynn Sandra Kahn, Ph.D.

Independent Candidate for President of the United States


Justice Reform in America: An Action Plan 

Purpose: This plan describes a comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent violence; transform law enforcement into a community policing model that uses best practices to build stronger communities; repair the damage done by our broken justice systems; and rebuild trust in justice and law enforcement in America so together we can improve public safety

Vision: Create trusted and respected law enforcement and justice systems that reduce and prevent crime and violence through strong community partnerships

GOALS and STRATEGIES: Summary

GOAL 1: PURPOSE and POLICIES

Strategy 1: Establish a new mission for the U. S. Department of Justice

Strategy 2: Prioritize federal funding to support community policing and networks of neighborhood-based services

Strategy 3: Change all federal policies contributing to mass incarceration, militarization of police and mistrust in our justice systems

GOAL 2: FACE-TO-FACE DIALOG

Strategy 4: Encourage dialog across agencies and with partners

Strategy 5: Highlight dialog between clients and mentors

Strategy 6: Support police-community dialog

Strategy 7: Support and fund citizen summits

GOAL 3: TRAINING and EDUCATION

Strategy 8: Support and fund immediate training

Strategy 9: Support and fund continuous education

Strategy 10: Close down the school-to-prison pipeline

GOAL 4: PROGRAMS and BEST PRACTICES

Strategy 11: Find best practices

Strategy 12: Define a new federal role to support justice reform

GOAL 5: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Strategy 13: Cut 1 trillion dollars of government waste, jumpstart 25 million jobs

GOAL 6: PARTNERSHIPS and PERFORMANCE

Strategy 14: Build partnerships with enduring mechanisms of coordination

Strategy 15: Measure progress


GOAL 1: PURPOSE and POLICIES

The changes needed to reduce and prevent violence in America must be made at every level and across every agency of government.

Strategy 1: Establish a new mission for the U. S. Department of Justice

“To reduce and prevent crime and violence by building stronger communities; to restore the full faith and trust of the American people in our police departments and justice systems; and to partner with communities and all levels of law enforcement to reduce and prevent crime, violence and acts of terrorism.”

Strategy 2: Prioritize federal funding to support community policing and networks of community-based programs

2.1   Use best practices in acquisition and budgeting to prioritize funding that supports criminal justice reform, a rapid transition to community policing, and networks of neighborhood-based services

2.2   Fund state, local and tribal criminal justice systems that release non-violent and low-risk offenders into networks of community-based services

2.3   Stop using federal funds for “broken windows,” “stop and frisk” or other policies that have contributed to racial profiling

2.4   Fund and support independent civilian oversight boards

2.5   Provide tax incentives to businesses and organizations that train and hire ex-felons or anyone released from juvenile facilities

2.6   Fund “innocence projects” to secure releases when convictions were based on biased testimony or compromised evidence

2.7   Fund local dialog on community policing, surveillance and civil liberties, and strategies to reduce gun violence and domestic abuse

Strategy 3: Change all federal policies that have contributed to mass incarceration, militarization of police and mistrust in our justice systems

3.1     Stop the war on drugs and re-direct this funding to neighborhood-based networks of services

3.2     Eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing

3.3     Release all non-violent and low-risk offenders from federal prisons into neighborhood-based networks of services; provide funds for state, local and tribal governments to do the same

3.4     Divert all non-violent youth away from criminal justice systems into networks of services; never put youth or young adults in jails or prisons with adults

3.5     Share lessons from innovative, young adult justice programs that specifically recognize our brains do not fully develop until the mid-twenties

3.6     Use proven risk assessments to determine who else may be eligible for diversion or release including victims of domestic violence who have been incarcerated after defending themselves or their children from violence

3.7     Establish policies to dramatically reduce violent arrest tactics including use of chokeholds, Tasers, closed-fist punching, police dogs, slamming and painful pinning to the ground, tear gas, and behind the back cuffing

3.8     Launch federal civil rights investigations every time there is a death or life-altering injury in jail, prisons or law enforcement custody

3.9     When law enforcement agencies reach out of court settlements related to excessive force, prohibit involved officers from remaining in law enforcement

3.10  Adopt “Mandela Rules” regarding humane conditions in jails, prisons or juvenile facilities including the elimination of solitary confinement and intrusive search tactics

3.11  Ease transitions from jail or prison into communities: make sure everyone who leaves jail or prison has job skills or access to training and access to neighborhood-based services; expunge criminal records after five years of post-release, non-criminal behavior; eliminate questions about criminal history from federal employment or contracting forms prior to face-to-face job interview; allow ex-felons to obtain licenses to drive and register to vote

3.12  Stop funding for-profit prisons; transfer control and funding of “family detention centers” to federal, state, local or tribal human services organizations

3.13  Develop data systems and visual mapping to track progress of police   jurisdictions as they transition to community-based policing

3.14  Establish national and White House awards for law enforcement agencies and individual officers who have demonstrated heroism by de-escalating dangerous situations; establish national and White House awards for individual officers and law enforcement agencies who partner with neighborhood-based networks of services to reduce crime and recidivism


 GOAL 2: FACE-TO-FACE DIALOG

The right policies and programs are necessary for the success of any model to reduce and prevent violence; dialog is the foundation for that success. Dialog moves people from concern to understanding through a shared sense of community to find the best possible solutions.

Strategy 4: Encourage dialog across agencies and with partners

New policies and programs will require communication and coordination across partner agencies including the courts, law enforcement, probation, parole, social services, job training, education, transportation, health and mental health services. Coordination may include inter-agency memorandums of agreement and contracts between new coalitions of agencies and other organizations to fund networks of neighborhood-based services. Agency dialog includes team discussions to cement in place new learning such as understanding “implicit bias” or how to build community partnerships.

Strategy 5:  Highlight dialog between clients and mentors

The most successful programs that help people on probation, parole or anyone newly released from prison, jail or juvenile facilities always include mentoring. The mentor or coach may be an agency staff member, trained community volunteer or trained ex-felons now giving back to a community they once harmed. Agencies must recognize how mentors open at-risk minds to new possibilities.

Strategy 6: Support police-community dialog

In diplomatic circles, peace talks often begin with each “side” meeting separately to vent emotions and to clarify issues and positions. Then, with an experienced diplomat, the different sides join together to share perceptions and agree on shared actions – sometimes just the ONE most important action to move toward.

Cities and towns struggling with the anger and broken trust between communities and law enforcement can use such a model: start separately, talk in small groups and focus on a few key questions such as: what is your perception of recent events and what is the ONE action we can take to re-build trust in our community? Then when ready – and given the level of anger on all sides, being “ready” to talk may take a while – law enforcement and community groups can join together to share perceptions and next steps.

Strategy 7: Support and fund citizen summits

Town hall meetings and larger citizen summits that are well designed and run by trained facilitators play an important role identifying specific actions to reduce and prevent crime and violence in a local community. Within the dynamics of these conversations lies the capacity to heal broken trust and damaged hearts. There are many qualified organizations and university centers that know how to design events to encourage citizen engagement in the analysis of problems and the development of solutions. The strength of a clearly designed town hall meeting or citizen summit is demonstrating that government and community can work together to deliver solutions.


GOAL 3: TRAINING and EDUCATION

For this action plan, training is defined as learning a very specific skill; education is broader, takes longer and generally includes understanding new concepts.

Strategy 8: Support and fund immediate training

Faced with the reality of growing public distrust of police and law enforcement, local agencies must decide what new and immediate training will help stop the downward spiral. Such new training may include: how to de-escalate tensions on the street; how to reduce aggressive traffic stop and arrest tactics; how to intervene safely and effectively in domestic violence calls; how to provide crisis intervention or how to stop blood loss when someone has been injured.

Strategy 9: Support and fund continuous education

The federal government must develop and support partnerships that will fund continuous and long-term education at our law enforcement agencies especially for non-traditional topics such as: how to understand “implicit bias” when looking at someone unlike us; how to recognize and work with the mentally ill; how to understand addiction; how to understand adolescent and young adult development; how to talk with troubled youth and young adult; how to read and interpret data about arrest and incarceration of people of color; and how to build community partnerships.

Strategy 10: Close down the school-to-prison pipeline

During the 2011-2012 school year, more than 3.5 million students were suspended from school. “Implicit bias” means that white teachers and school administrators are more likely to perceive students of color and students with disabilities as disrespectful and disruptive – a subjective judgment which leads to questionable suspensions and expulsions. Suspensions then entangle our children in criminal justice systems for minor offenses and push them further away from education and job training opportunities. The data is astonishing:

  • Black students are nearly four times as likely to be suspended than white students during high school; Latino, Native American and English learners are almost twice as likely as white children to be suspended during high school
  • 22 states have at least a 5% gap in suspension rates of white and black elementary students
  • 38 states have at least a 10% gap in suspension rates of black and white students in high school
  • The “school-to-prison pipeline” starts with 4 year olds:  African-American children are 18% of pre-school students and 48% of pre-school suspensions

The next President could withhold federal funds from all states where school suspension and expulsion rates are higher for children of color and launch civil rights lawsuits. Or – my choice – face reality and fix the public education problem in this country with a new model of equal funding that eliminates the resource gap between poor and wealthy schools; that brings all schools up to 21st century standards; that gives teachers more training and more time to teach; that recognizes suspensions and expulsions are symptoms of disorderly schools not problem children; and that provides free public college tuition to all.


Goal 4: PROGRAMS and BEST PRACTICES 

Solution Set 11: Find best practices

There are great programs all across America that are reducing and preventing violence and crime in all its forms. For example, we know about comprehensive probation reform in New York City; community policing in Camden, New Jersey and Richmond, California; formal risk assessments to help divert offenders away from the criminal justice system in Philadelphia; coaching probation officers in new approaches in Portland, Oregon; and crisis intervention training in Memphis.

There are models and strategies with great promise for attacking our most significant challenges including gang violence and human trafficking. There are non-profit organizations with the skills and expertise to help law enforcement agencies adopt more effective community policing and crime investigation strategies such as The Police Foundation’s analysis and recommendations for the Wilmington (Delaware) Police Department. There are studies of states such as New York, New Jersey and California that have reduced prison populations and crime has gone down!

Unfortunately, the burden is on community members and local officials to seek best practices since there is no national inventory or database of what works with respect to crime and violence.

Solution Set 12: Define a new federal role to support justice reform

12.1 Federal departments and agencies will “fast track” the publication of plain- language case studies and user-friendly on-line tools so everyone has access to best practices in any area related to violence in America

12.2 The U. S. Department of Justice will lead and be held accountable for: the transition of American law enforcement to a model of community policing that partners with networks of neighborhood-based services; the transformation of currently inhumane juvenile justice systems; reversing the racial and gender bias in sentencing and incarceration; closing the school-to-prison pipeline; and using a model of technical assistance that is proactive and customized to local needs


Goal 5: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Strategy 13: Cut 1 trillion dollars of government waste, jumpstart 25 million jobs

Democracy is a living system – the parts are connected in many different ways.  We cannot separate crime and violence from unemployment and poverty; we cannot ignore the impact when entire neighborhoods lack access to quality health care, quality schools, affordable housing and meaningful training that lead to 21st century jobs. If we add in racism and institutional biases, maybe we can begin to look with more kindness and forgiveness when frustration and anger burst forth in ways that land people inside the justice system.

My platform has a national goal of creating 25 million new jobs over ten years in infrastructure, healthcare, education, green energy and neighborhood-based programs. I’ve already described how to take one trillion dollars of waste out of our federal bureaucracies by demanding accountability, eliminating duplication and fraud, “stop funding stupid,” and demanding financial responsibility at the Pentagon. That’s where the funding comes from to jumpstart our 21st century economy. If we act wisely, we can create an American future where everyone has the opportunity to realize his or her dreams.

I say take a trillion dollars of waste out of our bureaucracies and use the savings to invest in our communities.


Goal 6: PARTNERSHIPS and PERFORMANCE

Strategy 14: Build partnerships with enduring mechanisms of coordination

Every program and policy aimed at reducing and preventing violence in America will require us to strengthen existing partnerships and create new ones. Such partnerships will include community-based, faith-based, charitable, business and non-profit organizations as well as multiple agencies at federal, state, local and tribal levels.

The biggest problem for establishing these crucial partnerships is that government departments and agencies – especially at the federal level -- design and deliver programs in isolation from other agencies. Oversight functions such as the Office of Management and Budget or Congressional committees focus on individual programs and end up protecting turf rather than coordinating to deliver meaningful results. That’s why we waste more than $95 billion dollars on programs that duplicate each other!

Right now, when agencies try to work together, there is no place in all of the federal government that formally supports those partnerships -- no place responsible for establishing a unified mission or integrated funding or shared accountability. There are currently valuable interagency task forces that try to fill this void but there are no permanent structures in place to coordinate across government agencies and with community partners. And that’s the secret sauce – enduring mechanisms that coordinate across agencies and with partners

14.1 Reinvent the Office of Management and Budget so oversight shifts from agencies that work in isolation to interagency performance networks that deliver measurable results

14.2 Share best practices regarding interagency coordination using aviation’s model as a starting point; clarify exactly how goals, plans, teams, actions, budgets and metrics will be coordinated

Strategy 15: Measure progress

As we re-shape our federal government so that partnerships across agencies become the basic building block of democracy, each performance network needs a visible dashboard of key measures that will measure progress.

15.1 The U.S. Department of Justice establishes measures to track justice reform using visual mapping so communities can see progress such as: the local transition to community policing, reductions in aggressive stop and arrest tactics, increases in numbers of low-risk youth and adults diverted away from the criminal justice system, reductions in neighborhood crime and violence, build up neighborhood-based networks of services, reductions in local fines for minor offenses, reductions in school suspensions and progress on all other policy changes described in this plan

15.2 Citizens provide input to measures that track progress in justice reform

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