Collaborative Change for Justice

We believe that one of the pillars of our work to end mass incarceration includes bringing people together—across disciplines, communities, and backgrounds—to explore ideas that create a more equitable and effective justice system. Under the Collaborative Change for Justice initiative, programs facilitate structured, meaningful, and novel engagement between different stakeholders, with special focus on students and city officials, to spark dialogue, better understand community challenges, and explore possible solutions together. With Columbia University’s extensive network of support, Collaborative Change of Justice programs can engage the university’s many disciplines and further collaborate with community partners to reduce the national reliance on mass incarceration and to support new approaches to justice and safety through education, research, and policy change.

 

We believe that one of the pillars of our work to end mass incarceration includes bringing people together—across disciplines, communities, and backgrounds—to explore ideas that create a more equitable and effective justice system. Under the Collaborative Change for Justice initiative, programs facilitate structured, meaningful, and novel engagement between different stakeholders, with special focus on students and city officials, to spark dialogue, better understand community challenges, and explore possible solutions together. With Columbia University’s extensive network of support, Collaborative Change of Justice programs can engage the university’s many disciplines and further collaborate with community partners to reduce the national reliance on mass incarceration and to support new approaches to justice and safety through education, research, and policy change.


Justice Ambassador Youth Council

 

Justice Ambassadors is a platform for 18 to 24 year olds, who have been previously justice- involved and youth residing in New York City, to participate in an eight week, structured classroom setting with city officials to hold conversations about challenging community issues, including racial inequality, poverty, trauma, and to co-develop policy proposals. The program’s components are: 1) personal change - members complete a 3-5 page statement that identifies an aspect of themselves they wish to improve and change, 2) community change - youth conduct group presentations at NYC youth centers to advocate for community change and individual accountability, and 3) social change - students and city officials develop co-authored policy proposals to improve adverse social conditions. In sum, the Justice Ambassadors build on the leadership skills of previously disenfranchised youth and provide them with the opportunity to become drivers of democratic change within their community. 

 

By empowering youth through this leadship oppportunity provides them with the space to reshape the very systems that often fail them and their communities, JAYC provides a framework for participants to begin their work as the future leaders of New York City. JAYC fills a gap in the current opportunities offered to youth who face challenges while residing in New York City. Members are offered  a way to directly engage in shaping educational, employment, housing, and community policies that impact many people. Currently, no other platform exists where young citizens meet regularly with city officials leading agencies that have the ability to positively redirect the lives of vulnerable youth before they enter the criminal justice system. By bridging the gap between these agencies and the youth that they intend to serve, JAYC fosters community engagement in a way that shows promising signs for future inclusion of directly affected populations in the process of writing the policy that affects their communities.

 

JAYC was developed by a formerly incarcerated staff member, Jarrell Daniels, an Open Society Youth Activist Fellow, Annie E. Casey Youth Advisory Council Member, and a Mellon-funded Justice-in-Education scholar. Jarrell  was inspired to create the Justice Ambassadors program after spending time in a classroom alongside prosecutors during his time in Queensboro Correctional Facility. As he discussed in his recently aired TED Talk, it was through this experience that he came to believe that, “through education we will arrive at a truth that is inclusive and unites us in a pursuit of justice”.

 

The first cohort of  JAYC ran from April to June 2019, concluding with a Grand Summit in which eleven youth Justice Ambassadors (Junior Ambassadors) and twelve city officials (Senior Ambassadors) presented policy proposals they developed alongside one another. Delivering the keynote speech at the event, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance lauded Justice Ambassadors as a program that empowers the city’s youth to become leaders in their communities and provides the opportunity for city officials to engage with and learn from the youth that they serve.


Inside Criminal Justice

 

Inside Criminal Justice, a joint initiative of The Manhattan D.A. Academy, the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the Center is a semester-long seminar comprised of individuals incarcerated at Queensboro Correctional Facility and prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. 

 

The seminar is intended to encourage in-depth and respectful conversation about the criminal justice system, culminating in jointly-authored policy proposals.   The objective is to think together about a justice system that emphasizes public safety, while supporting healthy development from birth to old age and making engaged citizenship possible for everyone.

 

The seminar reviews and integrates current psychological research on the role of social factors in healthy and unhealthy personal, community, and societal outcomes, and considers how this knowledge can be translated into action to promote personal and societal health.   

 

Watch former student Jarrell Daniels’ TED Talk, What Prosecutors and Incarcerated People Can Learn From Each Other, below.