The Justice & Safety Alliance is a broad coalition of organizations committed to transforming how public systems operate by collectively developing and advocating for equitable policies and practices, rooted in racial justice, that increase authentic safety, accountability, and healing.
We cannot police or incarcerate our way to a safer community. In order to make Shelby County safer, we must first recognize the violence and harm that policing and incarceration has disproportionately inflicted upon communities of color and marginalized populations in the name of “public safety,” acknowledging that these responses are counterproductive to building safe and healthy communities.
In order to make Shelby County safer, we demand that those in public service are held to the highest standards of accountability, transparency, and oversight. In order to make Shelby County safer, we must prioritize public health interventions and restorative, community-based solutions for healing and accountability. In order to make Shelby County safer, we must end the criminalization of poverty, support youth justice, and invest in our people and communities.
We call on elected and appointed leaders to make Shelby County safer by pledging to adopt the following principles and practices: Establish Accountability, Transparency, and Oversight; Prioritize Health & Wellness Interventions; Build Restorative Community Solutions; Support Youth Justice; End Criminalization of Poverty; and Invest in People and Communities.
Establish Accountability, Transparency, and Oversight
- Establish and maintain a Conviction Integrity Unit in the DA’s Office
- Make available all internal policies relevant to prosecutorial process, discretion, and eligibility for diversion or any other DA programs available to all defendants.
- Hold Police Accountable for Misconduct
- Create and make available to defense counsel a “Do Not Call” list for officers with a history of misconduct, dishonesty, racism or bias
- Commitment to data collection and access to charging and conviction data and demographics through a publicly accessible dashboard
- Commitment to collect, review and eliminate racial disparities in prosecution with input from community members
- Integrity in Plea Bargaining
Prioritize Health & Wellness Interventions
- Commitment to dispatch Crisis Intervention Teams (like CARE) that utilize law enforcement only as a last response to incidents stemming from a mental or behavioral health crisis.
- Direct investment to fund crisis response and trauma support services that originate from EMS / Fire Department and Shelby County Health Department.
- Commitment to provide first responder training in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certification and Community-Based Violence Interruption (CBVI).
- Commitment to connect survivors, victims, and those who’ve caused harm to community-based treatment and support systems after initial contact of crisis response.
Build Restorative Community Solutions
- Consider alternatives to incarceration like Community-based Violence Intervention Models (CBVI) that provide wrap-around support and treatment, particularly for defendants with histories of trauma, mental illness, substance abuse, and disability.
- Establish partnerships for community-based Restorative Justice and Community Accountability practices that center survivors, repair harm, and restore community relationships.
- Divert people from the criminal legal system at all stages of contact, from arrest, to pre-trial, to sentencing, and probation/parole.
- Decarcerate. Release as many people as possible from pre-trial detention.
- Pursue sentences that are restorative and cost-effective.
- Pledge not to seek the death penalty
- Eliminate the Special Prosecution Unit
- Make Pre-Booking Diversion the Rule: Expand eligibility for diversion before booking, prior to filing charges, and before plea agreements, avoiding incarceration and e-carceration
- Charge with restraint, only submitting for indictment that which can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by admissible evidence
- Transparency around / stop collaborating with federal agencies to target specific communities with surveillance and overly-punitive responses (Immigration/ICE, Multi-Agency Gang Unit)
- Protect workers by prosecuting employers who steal wages and violate labor laws protecting employees.
Support Youth Justice
- End youth transfers to adult court.
- Engage youth with developmentally appropriate supports and services.
- Adopt youth justice policies that center children and their families.
- Create, support, and promote programming and restorative, age-appropriate responses to children accused of delinquent acts
- Commit to reduce the number of notices of transfers to adult court
- Refrain from filing notices of transfer as leverage in negotiations
- End the use of bond recommendations as leverage for waiver of transfer hearings
- Support expungement of Juvenile Court records
- Reform Juvenile Court Practices re: discovery, end transfers, treat kids like kids, discretion
- Close the Juvenile Detention Center and redirect resources to Community Restorative Justice Center for Youth and Families
End Criminalization of Poverty
- End cash bail.
- Limit the use of pretrial detention.
- End all juvenile system fines & fees.
- Define a standard of indigency to waive court fees and cancel debt.
- Establish standards for judges to waive fines based on inability to pay.
- Technology fees – phones, tablet, visitation, commissary – Sheriff & Commission – outside contracts
- Commit to staffing open hearings where cash bail or conditions of pretrial release are considered
- Only seek intrusive conditions of release or cash bail based on strong evidence of a serious risk of flight of danger to others, based on individual circumstances in a given case. Identify charges, risk levels, and other metrics for which the office will support recognizance release.
- Measure the effectiveness of pretrial release based on data/indicators for success
- If a plea offer is to time served, the defendant is immediately released, regardless of bond/detention status.
Invest in People and Communities
- Invest in wraparound services for youth and families who are system-impacted.
- Prioritize community-centered budgets for Memphis & Shelby County that reflect a shift from status quo investments in failed punitive anti crime initiatives to direct investments in anti-poverty initiatives and public services like education, transit, and housing, etc. (i.e. The Moral Budget)
- Shift resources away from CJ to collaborate across systems to shift responses to public health & social services sector & away from CJ sector
- Reinforce Culture of Inclusion and Opportunity through DEI initiatives, restore voting rights, etc.
- Broaden social safety net (see Moral Budget)