In February 2009, the NAACP established the Criminal Justice program with the goal of working to build strong families and healthy communities. To accomplish the goals and objectives of the department, we have focused efforts in three key issue areas:
• Eliminating Employment Barriers for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals
• Sentencing Reform
• Advancing Effective law Enforcement
Over the last year, our staff has partnered with key criminal justice advocacy organizations, allies, and researchers in building the Smart and Safe initiative frame to advance criminal justice programs across the country. We have partnered with cross agency Programs teams, which includes Economic Justice, Field, Membership, and the Executive Office, to accomplish a great deal since our creation.
“Ban the Box”
The “Ban the Box” campaign explores strategic outreach opportunities to encourage corporations and state governments to “ban the box” (remove the question about criminal history from employment applications). We have successfully advocated large-scale employers to “ban the box” on employment applications. Formal announcements of these agreements are forth coming. We also plan to pilot efforts with this company to ensure that formerly incarcerate people are hired and are retained over time.
In California, successful engagement on “ban the box” has resulted in an administrative order from the Governor’s office which has removed the question of criminal history from employment applications for state positions. Worked to pass legislation to “ban the box” in Connecticut. In partnership with NAACP of Connecticut and other advocates (specifically A Better Way Foundation), this effort required passing legislation out of the House and Senate and overriding the Governor’s veto.
We launched the All Alert System, intended to report incidents of police misconduct, which has received over 1,100 reports of incidents of police misconduct. In July 2010 the All Alert System was expanded to include the reporting of hate crimes. To make the system more accessible, Twitter and text message reporting functions were added.
Over-funding of Our Prison System
In the fall of 2010, we released a successful awareness campaign on the over-funding of the prison system in our country. In September, the Criminal Justice department, in collaboration with the Washington Bureau, supported the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010 by producing rolling billboards and press events in 5 targeted cities (Philadelphia, PA; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA; Birmingham, AL; and Richmond, VA), much attention was gathered around this critical issue, which kept the bill alive. We hope to build on this momentum to get the bill raised during the lame duck session of congress.
Justice for All
The NAACP stood strong in defense of Troy Davis who was wrongfully accused in the murder of a police officer in Georgia. Staff from the criminal justice department attended press conferences in Georgia, prepared toolkits for local engagements on these efforts and is speaking directly to the issue and reality of guilty until proven innocence in the criminal justice system. Current efforts are now elevating the Scott Sisters case in Mississippi, two women sentenced to life in prison, for a yield which yielded $11 according to court testimony.
Our staff receives hundreds of calls from individuals who have been mistreated and work to raise dollars to support campaigns.
Our team regularly contributes to national media outlets through articles and opinion pieces. Ranging in topic from the profiting of private prisons to mass incarceration to immigration, these pieces drive the nation’s understanding of key criminal justice topics in communities of color. To review some of these pieces, please visit our website at: http://www.naacp.org/blog.
The team produced several key resources regarding criminal justice for issues for our units and activists, some of which have led to local campaigns on our key issues. The 2010 Criminal Justice Toolkit, and corresponding Handbook, highlights the key areas of our program with examples for engaging in specific campaigns. The toolkit on reentry, entitled The Successful Reentry Project: Working Towards Justice, Dignity and Redemption, was released at the 2010 Religious Leaders Summit. These and additional resources, some in collaboration with other national partners, are available online at: http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-resources.
Supporting Our Units
In 2010 we attended 4 regional conferences in the spring and 6 states conferences in just 2 months in the fall: California, Georgia, Michigan, New England, New York, and Texas. At each event, staff from the Criminal Justice department presented on mass incarceration, law enforcement accountability, reentry and immigration.
In addition, the criminal justice team has supported units to advance local organizing and campaigns. Specifically, we:
- Supported the Virginia State Conference in efforts to engage the Governor to "ban the box";
- Supported the Hartford, Connecticut and Jackson, Mississippi units to address racial profiling and to beat-back the racial targeting of immigrants. Jackson recently passed an anti-racial profiling ordinance;
- Supported the Connecticut State Conference to develop a legislative school to prison pipeline proposal for 2011;
- Supported the Dallas, North Texas, and San Jose units in their efforts to organize to influence the selection of a new police chief; and
- Supported the Los Angeles, California unit in their efforts to partner with local groups to establish an organizing committee to get the city of LA and LA county to "ban the box"-that work is ongoing.
Engaging Our Network
The NAACP has always fought for criminal justice, but the creation of a national department has brought resources and staff support to our network. This year we successfully advocated for the creation of criminal justice committees at the state conference and unit levels. In October 2010, the national board ratified the resolution, as passed at the 2010 Convention, to add criminal justice committees at the unit level. The Criminal Justice department at the national office will be rolling out a plan for engagement and communication within this new structure.
At the 2010 NAACP National Convention, the Criminal Justice department hosted a plenary session and several workshops including one on mass incarceration and what to do when you are stopped by the police.
We also engaged our national board on the continue need for our work, through a board retreat, specifically regarding the war on drugs.