Virtual Listening Session Focuses on Criminal Justice Reform
By Tricia Hall
Sojourner's Truth Reporter
A dozen community members participated in the November 12,
2020 virtual listening session, organized by the Lucas
County Commissioners to collect ideas on how to reduce the
local jail population.
The session, entitled Safety and Justice Challenge Community
Listening Session, was just one of several engagement
opportunities that will continue to gather information until
the final session scheduled for December 2020.
"If we weren't in a pandemic, we would engage the community
on a personal basis. So we're trying remote engagement, and
there are some individuals with a greater comfort with video
conferencing than others. We're also partnering with
Frederick Douglas Community Association and libraries,"
explained Lucas County Commissioner Gary Byers.
The series of listening sessions is connected to the
MacArthur Foundation Safety + Justice Challenge, which Lucas
County has remained an active partner since November 2015.
The partnership’s goal is to reduce the county's jail
The partnership reported a 32 percent reduction between
November 2015 to April 2016. The next phase of the
partnership focuses on the continued reduction of the
county's jail population, but with a targeted focus on
communities of color and four specific zip codes.
Ultimately, the county commissioners plan to analyze the
collected data and fund micro projects that will actively
address the partnership's focus.
"We want to find ideas to lower pre-trial custody of people
of color, the more individuals who participate, the more
ideas we'll receive," said Byers.
The listening sessions wanted to gather input on criminal
justice reform and racial equity from residents, community
members, business owners, organizations and others who live,
work or invest in four zip codes that experience the most
law enforcement and public interactions, 43604, 43607, 43608
Attends were asked to break into small groups to discuss
specific questions and report back to the larger group.
Discussion questions were:
What are your aspirations for criminal justice reform
efforts in your neighborhood/community?
What role does racial equity play?
What challenges and/or barriers does your
neighborhood/community face in reaching these aspirations?
What opportunities exist in and/or outside of your
neighborhood that could be a remedy or solution. (Think
about new or existing programs, advocacy networks,
grassroots coalitions, faith-based entities, individual
neighborhood citizens and/or community members with good
ideas that if funded for the first time, or receive
additional funding by way of a micro-grant, could be a
potential solution to achieving your neighborhood/community
"We plan to award the micro-program grants during the first
quarter of 2021. It's high time to put investments into the
community, as soon as we find projects to fund, we're going
to fund them," explained Lucas County Commissioner Pete
Meeting attendees shared the following comments during the
report back portion of the listening session:
Neighborhood and community focus.
Lucas County and Toledo Police Department policy reform.
Focus on police and community relations and review how law
enforcement approach people of color.
Acknowledge and address trauma (from law enforcement
interactions) and generational trauma in minority
Provide free phone calls to pretrial incarcerated
Acknowledge bail is a barrier for families in poverty.
Provide additional social service and mental health
Decriminalization of drug convictions.
Immigration issues impact black and brown people.
Recruit: younger generation, faith-based institutions
especially in the black community.
We want to hear from the community and complete an authentic
engagement. We plan to invest $100,000 in micro-projects in
those four zip codes. These projects should serve as the
catalyst to cease interactions between the police and invest
in community designs," said Gerken.
The remaining 90-minute sessions are scheduled for December
2, December 9 and December 16 at 5:00 p.m. For additional
information about the Safety + Justice Challenge and to
register for a listening session, visit the website https://lucascountycjcc.org/SJC.