Collaborating with Community-Based Organizations

Multidisciplinary task forces and committees are common modes of collaboration for issue-specific change. Often, these groups include representatives from local criminal legal system agencies, city/county executive and legislative offices, community-based organizations, service providers, advocacy groups, private sector employers, and other active community members. In at least two prominent examples (Washington, DC, and Los Angeles), local officials have assembled these task forces to engage residents on pressing local jail issues.

Washington, DC

In 2019, the District Task Force on Jails and Justice convened amid growing recognition of the District’s jail facilities’ dangerous state of disrepair. The group of more than 40 representatives from local government, academia, direct service providers, advocacy groups led by formerly incarcerated people, and employers engaged people across the District and within its jails to “redefine” DC’s use of incarceration. Respondents emphasized housing, jobs, and mental health, and most felt building closer-knit communities was important to public safety. Many also called for either a smaller police presence or better trained officers. These findings and the collective expertise of task force members informed recommendations for new supports and services to be implemented over the next 10 years.

Los Angeles

In 2019, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors established a public–private County Work Group on Alternatives to Incarceration. The group convened dozens of representatives from nonprofit organizations, service providers, and state and local governments to explore better responses to the “human conditions” of homelessness, poverty, and behavioral health issues. Their work involved creating a roadmap for solutions that provide care and services first and make jail a last resort, a process that engaged government and community residents to think broadly and boldly about strategies for public safety. The group produced more than 100 recommendations to minimize the use of police and jails and increase access to community-based services.