What is DC Justice Lab’s issue focus?
DC Justice Lab focuses on large-scale changes to the District of Columbia’s criminal legal system: limiting police powers, banning solitary confinement and other dehumanizing jail practices, and fully rewriting the criminal code. We also seek to dramatically expand the number of voices participating in our law- and rule-making processes and to center the experiences of people who are most directly impacted.
What is something DC Justice Lab is currently prioritizing? Can you tell our readers a little about the goals of the campaign/project?
DC Justice Lab is a partner of the national Unlock the Box campaign to end solitary confinement. We aim to advance legislation that significantly increases oversight of our Department of Corrections and reduces reliance on torture, isolation, and the use of Black Box restraints. We aim to ensure that policymakers, organizers, and the public understand that the use of solitary confinement does not make incarcerated people safer or healthier.
Tips and lessons: Do you have an “Advocacy Tip” to share or “Lesson Learned” while organizing this or other campaigns? Do you have any general words of wisdom that you’d like to share with other staff engaged in advocacy?
It is so important to listen deeply to community members about their needs, challenges, and opportunities. This means partnering with the most impacted–and most infrequently consulted–communities. It also means using your position and access to ensure that policies are responsive to the needs of the people most often left out of making policy; that those same people aren’t hurt by policies; and that the policy-making process is expanded to be more inclusive and transparent. Your work will be better and more effective.
Many of our member organizations work with both our Bolder Advocacy initiative on c3/c4 advocacy rules and guidance, and our Justice programs on the importance of the courts and judicial nominations. How has either or both most helped you? How have you worked with either or both?
We found the lobbying training facilitated by Leslie Barnes incredibly helpful. Leslie took the time to answer our specific questions and even provided feedback on some of our written materials. After this training, our team has also incorporated some of what we learned into our website, social media, and our 990.
Who inspires you?
We partner with incredible people who lend their wisdom, experience, and expertise to our efforts to transform D.C. It’s difficult to name just one person who inspires us. But those who are most inspiring are the people who have been harmed by the legal system and commit to fixing it. DC Justice Lab has learned much from returning citizens, people who are currently incarcerated, and people experiencing firsthand DC’s public health and safety failures.
All spotlights are written by AFJ members directly. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to complete a member spotlight.