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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 population.

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 and 43610. 

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 aspirations.

"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 Gerken.

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 communities.

·  Provide free phone calls to pretrial incarcerated individuals.

·  Acknowledge bail is a barrier for families in poverty.

·  Provide additional social service and mental health resources.

·  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



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/19/20 08:55:44 -0500.

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