LaTonya Tate: Founder and Executive Director at Alabama Justice Initiative

By LaTonya Tate, Founder and Executive Director at Alabama Justice Initiative

Describe your organization and your role.

The Alabama Justice Initiative is a policy and advocacy organization working to end mass incarceration while advocating for social and racial justice through partnerships with other grassroots and human rights groups working on these issues. We are committed in our work to activating the power and voices of directly impacted and formerly incarcerated individuals to advocate for change and criminal justice reform.

I am the mother of a formerly incarcerated son, who went to prison at the age of 19, and is on supervised parole until 2021. This fight for fair justice for my son and all those impacted by the mass incarceration crisis is dear to me. I am a drum major and a voice for those fighting for policies that will change the collateral consequences that keep people living in poverty and prevent them from participating in our democracy and getting  a second chance to be productive citizens in their communities!

Describe the most pressing challenges in your community, particularly for Black people, that your organization is addressing.

The most pressing issues and challenges for Black people in our community that Alabama Justice Initiative is addressing are voting rights and prison, sentence, and parole reform. These issues continue to be a problem in the South for those individuals, in particular, who are formerly incarcerated, those who are on community supervision, and those incarcerated due to the continued “Jim Crow” practices that are still being displayed.

Describe three of your proudest achievements for your organization and you.

Three of my proudest achievements for our organization are the launch of the Reimagine Justice Institute, Parole Education Preparation Project, and Alabama Summit on Reimaging Justice.

The Reimagine Justice Institute is an 8- week fellowship opportunity for directly impacted, formerly incarcerated people and community members to learn how to organize, advocate and work through the legislative process. Fellows are chosen from different geographical areas throughout Alabama to participate and then take back to their communities what they learn to train others to build power.

The Parole Education Preparation Project is an initiative to help those who are incarcerated prepare for their upcoming parole hearings to win their freedom. Volunteers are trained to help and support those who reach out to the organization for assistance as they prepare for parole hearings.

And lastly the Alabama Summit on Reimagining Justice is a conference that brings together stakeholders, other non-profit social justice organizations, and the community to discuss criminal justice reform issues and how to proceed with plans of actions to bring about change.

Why is this work so important in your community?

This work is so important to helping these individuals understand the power of their voices and how to be advocates for change and criminal justice reform. Through our work, the Alabama Justice Initiative is able to provide directly impacted, formerly incarcerated and other community members the opportunity to learn about community organizing, how the policy process works in Alabama, how to change statewide laws, and how to advocate for themselves and their loved ones in prison.

What is your vision for your community and your work?

My vision for the community and the work is to end the mass incarceration and supervision crisis in Alabama by activating the power of those of us who are affected by these harmful policies.

Because of my son’s experience with the criminal justice system in Alabama, and his continued supervised parole, my goal is to drive policy and advocacy work, as well as get into the community and let people know there is hope. I think if we raise our voices and speak truth to power, we can change a lot of things here in Alabama.