Barbara Pierce, Director of Justice Initiatives

Over the past few years, we’ve had the opportunity to help change the course of Louisiana’s criminal justice system.

First, there was the 2017 comprehensive policy package. This resulted in the implementation of new policies and practices that saved the state more than $12 million in corrections costs in just one year, $8.5 million of which was reinvested into victim services, community-based programs, and improved reentry resources.

Next, the state’s legislature called for the formation of a Women’s Incarceration Task Force in 2018, led by Chair and Department of Public Safety and Corrections Executive Counsel Natalie LaBorde. CJI was called upon in 2019 to help task force members hone in on a set of actionable recommendations to better the situations and outcomes of women incarcerated by the state and under community supervision. A diverse group of smart, dedicated women drove the process, and the expected impact is big.

At this point, we are familiar with the statistics on women in America’s prisons and jails. The number of women incarcerated has grown exponentially over the past four decades. They have higher rates of trauma and behavioral health needs than non-incarcerated people and men who are incarcerated, and worse health outcomes than their non-incarcerated peers and men in prisons and jails. Prior to incarceration, women were more likely to have served as primary caretaker for their children than their male peers, and more likely to have lower educational attainment and lower employment earnings than non-incarcerated women.
We believe the 20 recommendations of the Women’s Incarceration Task Force will directly address some of the unique challenges and disparities women face before and during incarceration, and upon their return to their communities. The recommendations focus on improving the physical spaces where women live while incarcerated, including increasing programmatic spaces so they can thrive; expanding access to education and treatment; and increasing the gender-responsiveness of women’s incarceration experience and reentry.

We look forward to starting our next phase of work with Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections leadership and staff to create a strategic plan for implementing the recommendations under the department’s purview and significantly improving women’s services.

Louisiana has created a unique opportunity to shape what corrections for women will look like in the future and to become a model for gender-responsive corrections. We are excited to partner with the department on this transformational work that we hope will ripple out nationally.

  • CJI created a nonpartisan framework for elections for the Trusted Elections Fund to support law enforcement and public safety leaders in planning, partnering, and protecting the public during the election and post-election periods. The framework is the result of many discussions with experts across topics including elections, political violence, disinformation, 1st Amendment rights, law enforcement, and others. CJI also contributed to a second release with the Voter Protection Program, Georgetown Law's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, and 21CP Solutions on how to deal with voter intimidation at the polls. 

  • On Monday, October 12, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the most expansive automated record clearance bill in the country. Michigan’s bipartisan approach to developing the far-reaching, comprehensive Clean Slate bill and broader criminal record expungement policies are a model for state-driven criminal justice reform. CJI provided campaign and policy assistance to Safe and Just Michigan’s campaign, with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Clean Slate Initiative.

  • CJI is working with the City of Milwaukee towards compliance with a court-ordered settlement agreement regarding Milwaukee’s police practices and recently published its second set of annual reports. The analysis indicates that Black drivers and residents are subjected to traffic stops, field interviews, and frisks at significantly higher rates than white drivers and residents. Black drivers are 8X more likely to get stopped than white drivers, Black residents are 4X more likely to be subjected to a field interview, and 7X more likely to be subjected to a frisk. 

  • CJI contributed to the recent publication from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, Recommendations for Response and Future Readiness. The Commission was established by the Council on Criminal Justice, which CJI also worked with on its Independence Task Force on Federal Priorities Task Force project. CJI will continue to support the work of the Commission’s last phase of work, which is to publish a final report and recommendations to ensure a “stronger, healthier, and more equitable criminal justice system in a post-pandemic world.”

  • Legislation resulting from the recommendations of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration continues to move through the Michigan Legislature. In late September, 13 bills and one resolution – reducing license suspensions and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences – passed the House and crossed over to the Senate. In early October, a separate package of seven bills addressing arrest and sentencing practices passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and will reach the Senate floor later this year. CJI continues to guide practitioners and policymakers around the state as these bills progress, in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Jasmine is in the top middle photo.

The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) selected Jasmine Jackson, senior policy specialist at CJI, as a Fellow for the 2020-2021 Youth Justice Leadership Institute (YJLI). She is one of 12 people who make up this year’s prestigious fellowship program.

The YJLI is a yearlong leadership development program for youth justice reform advocates. Each year, NJJN selects a diverse class of advocates and organizers of color to continue their advocacy efforts and bring broad, positive change to juvenile justice systems.

Jasmine and the rest of this year’s cohort will gain a deeper knowledge about system structures and trends, learn about effective advocacy and organizing techniques, and work with mentors who are also advancing meaningful system reforms.

“It’s important for me to be a part of a movement of change with like-minded people who look like me. The fellowship gives me the opportunity to partner and learn from a network of professionals who are focused on improving the lives of young people across the United States through various avenues,” said Jasmine. “I’m excited to be a YJLI Fellow because, in addition to growing my network, I can focus on improving outcomes and eliminating disparities of young people of color, sharpen my leadership skills, expand my outlook on advocacy, be challenged by my peers in being a better practitioner, and broaden my reach in amplifying reform work both at CJI and in my community.”

For her advocacy project, Jasmine will work on an initiative that recognizes and addresses girls’ diverse needs, which are different from those of boys. She plans to develop a resource guide that helps people who make decisions on behalf of girls better recognize and advocate against the disparate and biased treatment of girls involved in the justice system, especially girls of color.

Thanks to our many partners and funders who help us make this work happen, including Arnold Ventures, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), National Institute of Corrections, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Pew Charitable Trusts, and several state, regional, and local jurisdictions.