Reconnecting, Realizing and Reimagining Justice: Advancing Economic Justice for Individuals and Communities Impacted by the Criminal Justice System

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals impacted by the justice system faced nearly insurmountable barriers to accessing quality employment, education, physical and mental health supports, and more. As the nation responds to the public health crisis, it is more important than ever to advance economic justice for them and their communities. Without targeted actions, these barriers will only further preclude those impacted by the criminal justice system from accessing opportunity.

In 2019, CLASP convened over 60 national, state, and local advocates, public systems leaders, policymakers, youth and young adults and other partners from a wide range of disciplines. These stakeholders bridged economic and criminal justice reform with an intentional focus on those who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system.

Our new report, Reconnecting, Realizing and Reimagining Justice, written by Duy Pham, Kisha Bird and Shae Harris, informed by the convening, uplifts four key takeaways for reconnecting, realizing, and reimagining justice.

  1. Criminal justice reform must be taken with an anti-racist lens. To reimagine the system, we must undo the decades of debilitating policies that preserve racial and economic inequality.
  2. We must center individuals, families, and communities directly impacted by our unjust criminal justice system. Reimagining and abolishing the current system will require policymakers and the public to first recognize and value their humanity.
  3. Advancing economic justice is crucial to effectuating real change. Quality jobs, education, and healing need to be prioritized at all levels of the criminal justice system.
  4. We need to move beyond small reforms and reimagine the entire system. We must work within our existing systems with the ultimate goal of reimagining our broken criminal justice system.

The report also presents a justice action agenda to advance economic justice for individuals and communities impacted by the criminal justice system. Economic justice demands that all people impacted by mass incarceration can universally access economic opportunity. This is critical, particularly given how COVID-19 has disrupted the economic security of millions nationwide.

We must begin to take bold steps to reverse our country’s prejudiced criminal justice system and develop a comprehensive vison for community investment that doesn’t rely on a system of oppression. Through targeted policy changes and investments in education, workforce and health and mental health opportunities that center individuals and communities impacted by the justice system, we can advance a positive vision for what justice should be.