In the face of increased push back in the US against criminal justice reform, what are strategies for continuing to transform safety and justice? In this special bonus episode, we’ll listen in on the closing plenary of the Fall 2022 Aspen Justice Network convening on this topic. The session features Erica Bond, Vice President of Social Justice Initiatives at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC, and DeAnna Hoskins, President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA.
The session, titled The Importance of Now: Maintaining Momentum in Criminal Justice Transformation, ranges from the personal to the national, covering how both these experts began in criminal justice change, and how to address the particular needs of women involved in the criminal legal system.
The discussion also addresses how misinformation impacts reform strategies, the tendency to focus on wins and then move on—rather than maintaining those wins—and the need to reach wider audiences with our messages.
Vice-President, Social Justice Initiatives, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Erica Bond has experience in the government, non-profit, public policy, and legal sectors. Prior to becoming Vice President of Justice Initiatives at John Jay College, Erica was the Policy Director at the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College, a research organization that seeks to advance safe, just and equitable communities through data and research on criminal justice policy, operations and reforms. Previously, she served as Special Advisor for Criminal Justice to the First Deputy Mayor of New York City.
Prior to joining city government, Erica was a Director of Criminal Justice at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (now called Arnold Ventures), where she worked to develop new research, policy reforms and evidenced-based innovations with the goal of transforming criminal justice systems nationwide. In this role, she partnered with criminal justice practitioners, researchers, and policymakers on initiatives to improve community safety, increase trust and confidence in the criminal justice system and ensure fairness in the criminal justice process. Erica is a mayoral designee to New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. She has a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and a B.A. from Wesleyan University.
President and CEO, JustLeadershipUSA
DeAnna R. Hoskins is President & CEO of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA). Dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in #halfby2030, JLUSA empowers people most affected by the criminal justice system to drive reform. DeAnna is a nationally recognized leader and a formerly incarcerated person with experience as an advocate and policy expert at the local, state, and federal level. Prior to joining JLUSA as its President and CEO, DeAnna served as a Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice, managing the Second Chance Act portfolio and serving as Deputy Director of the Federal Inter-Agency Reentry Council. Before that, she served as a county Director of Reentry in her home state of Ohio. DeAnna has always worked alongside advocates who have been impacted by incarceration, and knows that setting bold goals and investing in the leadership of directly impacted people is a necessary component of impactful, values-driven reform.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, The Aspen Institute is nonpartisan and does not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates or parties. Further, the views and opinions of our guests and speakers do not necessarily reflect those of The Aspen Institute.
Visit us online at The Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative and follow us on Twitter @AspenCJRI.
Shades of Freedom
Bonus Episode (2022)
Pushing back on the Pushback to Justice Reform
Guests: DeAnna Hoskins and Erica Bond
December 14, 2022
Copyright 2022 Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (00:03):
Hello, I'm Dr. Douglas Wood, director of the Aspen Institute's Criminal Justice Reform Initiative. Thanks for joining us for a special episode of Shades of Freedom. This past September, we hosted community partners who are working with us on our Justice and Governance Partnership Initiative at our first convening of the Aspen Justice Network. Partners from South Carolina, Alabama, and Michigan gathered for four days in Aspen, Colorado, to connect with each other and engage in deep conversations on public safety and reimagining justice transformation.
I had the honor to moderate the closing panel of our convening with DeAnna Hoskins, President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, and Erica Bond, Vice President of Social Justice Initiatives at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. DeAnna and Erica discussed their work in justice transformation and the ways community safety can be created and fostered. This special episode of Shades of Freedom is an edited version of that plenary conversation. We hope you enjoy this special episode, and thank you so much for listening to Shades of Freedom.
We have two amazing people here on the stage, both of whom sit on our advisory council, so we're very happy for them to be here, and they do great amazing work in this field. I am honored, very honored, to sit on the stage with both of you. To my direct right is DeAnna Hoskins who is president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. And to her immediate left is Erica Bond who is vice president of Social Justice Initiatives at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. So welcome, both of you.
DeAnna Hoskins (01:49):
Thank you, thank you.
Erica Bond (01:49):
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (01:50):
So let's start with a pretty easy question, and DeAnna, I'll ask you first.
DeAnna Hoskins (01:54):
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (01:55):
What brought you, and brings you, to this work in criminal justice?
DeAnna Hoskins (01:59):
Wow, thank you for that. Thank you for having me too. I actually got engaged in this work because in 1998 I was convicted of a felony conviction, and part of the sentence from the judge was remain drug free, get custody of your kids back, and stay employed.
Of course, getting clean was easy. Getting my kids back was easy because nobody wanted to take care of them, so of course they were like, "Here are your children." But the hardest part was the employment piece. And as I, prior to the criminal conviction, I was in data entry. This is at a time when data entry was becoming huge, and I would go looking for jobs and I would always make it to a contingent offer, contingent on the background check, right?
So the background check would come back, the offer would be rescinded, and something told me, ask for the policy. And I started to ask the employers for their HR policy, only to discover there were no written policies. This had been a way of business that corporations and individuals had just adopted, people with criminal backgrounds aren't going to work in this field. Thus, kind of got me into a policy arena.
From there, started challenging it in open forums of a discriminatory practice of people with criminal backgrounds. Going back to my judge saying, "Hey, this is the sentence, this is where I've tried." Because I literally started asking employers for letters stating, "We want to hire her, she has the skillset, but based on our policies we can't." Which ultimately led to me going to the governor, petitioning for a pardon of how my criminal background was hindering me from being a productive member of society.
Then I realized, "You just had the courage to do that, DeAnna. How many other people are getting those doors slammed? And you can take this pardon and then move on, or you can take this opportunity to become a voice." And that's what I did.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (03:46):
And so how are you using your voice that led you to JustLeadership?
DeAnna Hoskins (03:51):
Probably people who know me are like, "She truly is an authentic voice. She's just going to show up the way she is." But I utilized that in a policy forum, in a policy concept. A lot of times I always say we're advocating for jail closures, we're advocating for sentencing reform, but there are actually policies on the book that allow legalized discriminatory practices of people with criminal backgrounds. And if we don't start to address those policies, I'm going to be honest, you can do clean slate all across this country, but if people can't access the federal funding that provides those training opportunities when it hits the states, they're still barred out.
You know, housing is a basic human need, and while HUD may only bar two criminal backgrounds. They give discretion to localities, and localities come up with five to 10 pages of barriers. So I utilized my voice, I've been blessed that my career has allowed me to work in state, local, and federal government. So not only do I show up with expertise as a policy person, but I also show up with the lived experience that I can put together to demonstrate how it's causing more harm in our community than it is good.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (04:57):
Thank you, DeAnna.
DeAnna Hoskins (04:57):
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (05:03):
Erica, what brings you to this work in criminal justice?
Erica Bond (05:07):
So first of all, thank you for having me. It's great to be in this space with all of you. It's an honor to be sitting here with DeAnna, and thank you for sharing your story with us. My story's a little bit different in terms of how I come to this work. So I am the daughter of immigrants. On my mother's side, my family's from Colombia, my father's side Jews from Eastern Europe. And when I reflect back on sort of my family history and kind of how I got to this stage, it's really a story of people who are fleeing violence in their home countries and discrimination, and trying to come to a place where they're going to have opportunity. And in many ways that has been the case for my family. So much of my family came from Colombia in the seventies and eighties, not because they necessarily wanted to leave, but because their communities simply were not safe and they could not make a life for themselves.
And they benefited greatly from coming here, and in fact they came to New York City and have benefited greatly from the 20 years of crime declines and relative safety that's been achieved in New York City. And so I think a lot about sort of the benefits that community safety brings, particularly for immigrants and immigrant families, and I feel a sort of obligation to pay that work forward. And so I think my family's story is a pretty successful one.
But the second reason I really do this work is because we live in a country where everyone still isn't safe, right? We live in a country where your race and your religion, your sex, your sexual preferences, can still put you at greater risk of violence and harm, where we continue to pass laws that allow for the proliferation of weapons in our cities, where we take away rights from women, and where we continue to abuse people who are coming from other countries, also fleeing poverty and violence, by shipping them around the country as if they are widgets. And so we are still not a safe country for everybody, and I think until we are, there's an obligation on all of us to continue to do this work.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (07:13):
Thank you, Erica. DeAnna, I have a question.
DeAnna Hoskins (07:16):
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (07:16):
What is JustLeadershipUSA, and how'd you get there?
DeAnna Hoskins (07:20):
So actually, JustLeadership is the only national organization that's founded by and operated by formerly incarcerated individuals. Our goal is to cut the correctional population in half by 2030, and we do that by investing in the leadership of formerly incarcerated individuals across the country, so they can, we used to say have a seat at the table of power, but we're convinced at this point we need to build our own table and send everybody else an invite. And at this point, so our goal is to really empower those voices that have been marginalized and oppressed, that their lived experience matters, their experience and their communities matter. So JustLeadership really focuses on people who have already demonstrated leadership skills, and how do we bring out that extra leadership?
We have a motto, those closest to the problem are closest to the solution but typically furthest from resource and power. How do we actually tap into those resources and connect to that power so that their voices can be elevated? I got to this work actually as a cohort member of the second class of Just Leadership. I actually at that time was working under the Obama administration managing all of the Second Chance portfolio. So if you guys ever had Second Chance funding, that was the portfolio that I managed within the Department of Justice. And at the time the founder of the organization who was a mentor of mine stepped down, and of course I thought I had got to the federal government, I had arrived. Everybody wants a federal job, you just ride this on out.
But something drastic happened, and I went from an administration where everyone from the President, the AG, were all aligned on language, how we do criminal justice reform to reduce harm, to an administration that really was around law enforcement and heavy-handedness. And I'll never forget, there was a meeting, and we had to rescind the way we used language in the Department of Justice. Previously we said it was going to be people-centered. We were not going to use the word convict, ex-offender, anything in our grant proposals. And we literally got a memo that says, "Go back to using offender, convict." And I took it personal, because now you were talking about me, and it demonstrated as a country where we were going around the people who were most impacted, that we were actually supposed to be helping.
So when the opportunity came, I just kind of sat back, and most of my peers who I went through the program with really were the ones who convinced me. So I realized at that time, there is a term, either you're leading Black or you're a Black leader. And Black leaders are chosen by the people, people leading Black is chosen by the corporations. And at the time this was an opportunity to become a Black leader because the people were asking me to step up.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (10:09):
That's so powerful. Erica, we love John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In fact, the former President of John Jay College Criminal Justice is here, Jeremy Travis.
DeAnna Hoskins (10:19):
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (10:21):
And we have really been following the great work that you are doing around public safety. You mentioned the importance of the challenges of safety in communities. Can you talk about the work you're doing around public safety at John Jay?
Erica Bond (10:35):
Yeah, absolutely. So I am very privileged to be at John Jay as the Vice President of Justice Initiatives. A lot of the work that I am doing there is in support of our Future of Public Safety Initiative. That initiative was launched in 2020, just post George Floyd's murder and the protests that rightfully followed. And at the time the notion was that we are a college of criminal justice, we are a college that historically has trained law enforcement leaders, and we needed to create a space to have a conversation that included law enforcement leaders about the future of public safety. And I think a lot of organizations were doing similar and very important work that's created roadmaps for all of us, but I think one of the things that was unique about the space that we provided is that we did have this deep history and connection with law enforcement and we explicitly included leaders from across the country in a series of conversations.
We had 38 leaders from across the country, diverse background and experience, folks that were directly impacted, folks that were advocates, folks that worked in public health, researchers. So a really broad array of folks who came to the table for these public conversations to think about how do we chart a course forward that is not so heavily reliant on policing in the criminal legal system as the primary mechanism for driving public safety. And it was really interesting because there was a lot of consensus that actually emerged from those convenings. And so we put out a report, the Future of Public Safety Report. It's available online. I'm happy to share it. I won't go through all of the details, but I think there were a couple core principles that were embodied in that report.
One was that we really needed as a country to start investing on the front end in our communities in ways that we had not, and particularly in communities of color, to invest in education and housing and employment and all of the things that make safe communities safe that we all know in predominantly White or suburban communities. Those are the things that are driving safety and those are things that every community should have, and that we really needed to focus our public safety policy in those ways. And the second was really also around policing and thinking about how could we narrow the scope of policing, ensure accountability and oversight for policing in a way that ensured that law enforcement is actually accountable to the communities that they serve. And that's where I think, again, John Jay has a unique role to play because of our long history in educating for justice and particularly our relationships in the law enforcement community.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (13:10):
I want to talk a little bit more about that. Can you both talk a little bit about what are the components necessary, and supports around making the community safer? And I mean that in a sense that oftentimes communities where there are spatial concentrations of high rates of incarceration and overlapping inequities, are less resourced but overmanaged in terms of a crisis sort of approach to it. So what's needed for us to have a different approach when it comes to supporting communities that have overlapping inequities in spatial concentrations of high rates of incarceration?
DeAnna Hoskins (13:50):
I'll start because I think serving on the committee that Erica just spoke about really enlightened me to really pay attention to the makeup of communities, and the task force that I was actually leading under that, what we discovered was the most oppressed and marginalized communities don't have the four institutions that stabilize the community. That is education, grocery, hospital, and financial. Typically, our Black and Brown communities are food deserts. The educational system is really, and a lot of times you don't have the financial institutions that invest back in the communities where they sit. When you look at those institutions, those are very stabilizing institutions.
More resources are poured into the community. They pour into the community as being a part of it. So when we look at marginalized and oppressed communities that are over-policed, the urban schools have more SRO officers with guns than we do social workers, right, to address the actual crisis and trauma. Our communities don't have the front-end resources of activities and engagement. We only want to address those issues, I call them re-entry programs, on the backend, meaning I first have to go through the system to even get access to the program. Where's the no-entry programs? Where's the no-entry investment?
And what you'll see, one of the things I was introduced coming to New York, was the Close Rikers campaign, right? Very intimidating because I had never served time on Rikers. I was a formerly incarcerated person.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (15:19):
Can you talk a little bit about what Rikers is?
DeAnna Hoskins (15:20):
Yes. So Rikers Island, for those New Yorkers, if I get it wrong, please help me. But the largest jail in this country at one time, incarcerated pre-trial, almost over 50,000 individuals, the most notorious jail in the country, and JustLeadership campaigns to close Rikers had been going on for years. And JustLeadership, again, with partnerships from the community across New York, the educational institutions, launched Close Rikers, and let it be led by those who had experienced Rikers Island. Their voices were the most impacted in moving that initiative.
When I came to Just Leadership and we were in this Close Rikers campaign, it dawned on me the amount of money that it took to incarcerate a person on Rikers Island. And I think organization Vera started bringing up these dollar amounts, and realized you could send a person to Harvard for what it was costing to house a person on Rikers Island in jail. And these were minimum crimes, right? These were not the most notorious violent people accused of crimes. But then again, the presumption of innocence should be maintained, and we were not.
But when we started doing a dollar calculation and it was, if we invest those savings on the front end in the most marginalized communities that are most impacted to increase their education system, increase access to mental health, substance abuse, which we found was a driver. And in New York City, knowing access to safe, affordable housing is an issue, the impact that we really could have. Because what we have become is not only a city with New York, we've become a country that rather invests on the back end, invests on over surveillance than versus investing on the front end in a preventive manner.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (17:12):
Erica Bond (17:13):
Yeah, I'd love to piggyback on this conversation because I was actually in the mayor's office at the time that JustLeadership was doing its advocacy work. So I can really attest to the importance of that work and the importance of placing pressure on government. Some of us welcomed it because it helped us, I think, do the work and get to a place where we could say to the public, "This is something that we need to do." And so I just can't say enough about the leadership of JustLeadership and the Close Rikers campaign, and there's still a lot of work to be done there. So the city did make an announcement, made a commitment. The city council passed legislation committing to closing Rikers Island and building new facilities, but we're not there yet. In fact, we've got a little ways to go. We have a jail population that's starting to bounce up again.
And in order to actually close Rikers, we're going to need to continue to keep our foot on the gas when it comes to decarceration and doing a lot of the things that I actually think New York City has done very successfully in terms of reducing the footprint of the criminal legal system, reducing incarceration, investing in communities. I think it is a pretty good model. But I think we also need to show we can close a jail that really is a human rights disaster, and so I think that work really continues. But all credit, I think, to Just Leadership for placing the kind of pressure, bringing the right voices to the table to make sure that the city did what needed to be done in terms of committing to closure.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (18:42):
I want to switch a little bit. It's related obviously to what's happening in these communities that are underserved. But I want to talk about women in particular. When I was at the Ford Foundation, we were very intentional about supporting women, and particularly when it comes to the challenges inherent inside prisons and supporting them when they get out. One of our advisory council members is the great, Vivian Nixon, got to give her a shout out, who is the former head of college and community fellowship. And I think oftentimes we have to be very intentional about the work that we do. And so when we think about the criminal justice system, criminal justice transformation, what are the things we need to talk about, particularly when it comes to women, and in this entire sort of context of challenges inherent, particularly when it comes to criminal justice issues?
DeAnna Hoskins (19:36):
Thanks, Doug. As a woman who has went through the criminal justice system at a time when there was no gender-focused resources or access, understanding the pressure, one, that society put the shame and guilt on a woman even being involved in the criminal justice system, right? Women are our head of household, we have our children. So there was the shame and guilt, but again, no one addressed the trauma that led to the initial incarceration. It's easy for me to say my incarceration was a direct result of a substance abuse issue, but let's go deeper. What was the trauma that led to me utilizing the substances to push down the pain, right? Nobody gets past there. It's like, "You can go to drug court." I'm like, "No, I need trauma court," because there are some other underlying issues. And we never really focus on those things, of really addressing the harms or the experiences of women that have actually engaged in the criminal justice system.
And I always challenge the system when I'm talking to judges. When are we going to become a country that looks at the person standing before you and all of their things that they individually bring before handing down a sentence, versus just looking at the crime and sentencing based on the crime, never getting to the core of it. So it's really important because the barriers for women are even higher. I always say when women are released into homelessness from incarceration, they are more subjected to get in abusive relationships for a place to stay. They're more subjected to do things to make money. So if we don't focus on some of those things, we actually are recreating the wheel of crime, of what I call survival mode of crime. I'm not committing crime because I just want to do it. I actually have been forced into a survival mode of crime by the lack of resources that are available to help me become a productive member.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (21:27):
Erica Bond (21:29):
Yeah, I think what I'd add to that is we do need to create sort of specialized approaches and strategies for dealing with women who are involved with the criminal legal system. It was something that we did at the city when we were thinking about the women who were on Rikers Island, and appreciating the fact that many were heads of households, did have children, and were really struggling to maintain connections to their families. And so a lot of the work that we were trying to do was to figure out how could we foster community engagement even while women were incarcerated in a pretty terrible place, and how could we make it easier for kids to visit their parents, visit their mothers in particular, because we saw that visits were really not taking place between mothers and their families.
And so I think it's interventions like that, which are far from ideal, right? Because bringing a child into that kind of environment, I don't think is healthy. But also thinking about ways that we can create diversions for women that are specific to their needs, and there's plenty of data and research that validates that many women who are in jail and in prison have suffered from trauma, have suffered from sexual abuse at very high rates, and we're not really doing the kinds of things that we need to do in order to support them to heal their trauma so they can come back into the community and really be an anchor for their families as many of them are.
DeAnna Hoskins (22:46):
I want to close on that one because I think it's important. One of the things we don't talk about a lot, we're starting to have this conversation of gender=specific for women. We don't talk about the harms that is impacted on the children that are actually brought into the facilities to visit, the not having engagement. And when I was at DOJ, we did a pilot project around children of incarcerated parents, and it was really a report focused to correctional leaders of how you should structure or reduce, loosen up, your rules when children are trying to visit their parents. Down to the point where we were even asking for parents to have on normal street clothes and have a separate area where they can engage with their children, a reading library, allowing parents to actually call into parent teacher conferences to stay engaged with their children and a part of their children's educational system.
And some states were actually willing to do that, but we don't really look at all the harms of when children are excited about seeing their parents, they get to the visitation, they got on the tank top, and they're totally turned around. Can't visit, right? The trauma of seeing your parent in a jumpsuit in a room with a whole bunch of other people. Even if they're in solitary confinement, having to visit them behind the actual full glass or in a cage in some sense, of understanding the trauma that we're entrenching on the children who are actually going to grow up in those same communities with those same attitudes and thoughts.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (24:09):
Okay, now switching to the actual topic of the panel, which is all related anyway.
DeAnna Hoskins (24:16):
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (24:17):
You know, there's a pushback now when it comes to criminal justice reform, whether it's bail reform in New York or whether it's sort of talking about it in a way that doesn't really tell the truth. For example, homicide race versus violence. So tell me, what should we do to maintain criminal justice transformation in the wake of pushback on criminal justice reform? Erica?
Erica Bond (24:47):
Yeah, it's a hard question and I think that some of the challenge is that voters and community members are being fed a steady diet of misinformation about reform, and I think some of our obligation is really to try to push back on those streams of misinformation, some of which are coming from elected officials that have large bully pulpits and have access to the media, and are not, I don't think, being straight with the public about what the impacts of reform really are and are quick to scapegoat reforms, which I think is a real abdication of responsibility.
Because there are many, many things they can be doing that will address violence, that will address some spikes in homicides that we've seen around the country, and very real challenges that communities are facing and they're raising around homelessness and mental health. There are things we can and should be doing about that, but unfortunately I think the narrative has shifted in a way that's not particularly productive.
And so I think a lot of what we need to be doing, and what we're trying to do at John Jay, is create spaces to correct that misinformation. And I'll give you an example. Bail reform has been a hot topic in New York and also around the country, and there's been a lot of misinformation in the local tabloids from elected officials and others, especially in these sort of heated political times, about what's driving some of the recent increases in violence and shootings in New York. And it was all sort of laid at the feet of bail reform, which was implemented just prior to the pandemic, right? So perhaps we should consider the impacts of the pandemic on communities that might lead to increases in violence. But instead there's been a real emphasis and a real focus on bail reform, despite the fact that bail reform has been implemented in many other states without associated increases in crime or violence.
And so a lot of the work we've been trying to do at John Jay is create a space to actually share accurate information. And be honest about what we don't know, where we don't have information, where there's gaps, but really be clear with the public, and really engage the media because the media has been such an important voice in all of this and has helped to propound some of these myths about reform. So we did a whole panel just with folks in the media to talk about how they're telling their stories, challenges around talking, around identifying folks who can talk about the positive impacts of bail reform, who are able to keep their jobs, who are able to stay with their families, who are able to maintain their presence in the communities because of bail reforms. Those stories aren't really getting told. And so again, we're just trying to create spaces in the form of a conference where we brought together experts from around the country, and also for debate.
So we brought in folks that were publicly very critical of bail reform so that they could hear these different perspectives and we could create a space, hopefully, to correct some of the misinformation out there. So I think some of the work is around correcting misinformation because there is an incredible amount of it out there. And I think we have challenges in the sense that people don't trust traditional sources of information and news. They're less trusting of institutions. And so we have a lot of headwinds that we need to contend with in order to correct a lot of the misinformation that's out there.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (28:13):
Erica? Oh, Erica. Sorry, DeAnna.
DeAnna Hoskins (28:16):
So this has been something we've really thought about, and when you look at the pushback on bail reform in New York, now the pushback on bail reform in Illinois, and I don't know if you guys have lately seen one of the mayors from one of the towns in Illinois, he's calling it the Purge, right? So he's using this real fear-mongering around bail reform and how people have committed violent crimes are actually going to be released. They're going to be in your community, and by the time we get to look for them, they could be in Alaska. There's real fear-mongering. Then I look at what happened with Chesa Boudin in California, and what we've realized, and I actually accept responsibility as an individual leading the advocacy organization, that we put a lot of focuses in on getting the reform across the finish line.
What we don't do is put a lot of focus in on maintaining the win, right? So even funders fund us, and this has been my conversation to funders. "You fund us to do the fight. You don't fund us to maintain the win. So we have to utilize that same communication, so that same investment you gave us to gather and push it in the community, we need you to invest in us to maintain that win." And I used Larry Krasner in Philadelphia as an example. Same issue, walking into a prosecutorial office that actually had been known for corruption, getting a lot of pushback from law enforcement. How did Larry maintain and win that next election? He never let his foot off the gas pedal. He kept those voices that had been a result of those prosecutorial misconduct as a part of his campaign. He kept pushing the initiative. He pushed those voices out.
We have not utilized a communication strategy to maintain those wins. And what I've realized from Just Leadership, we're actually doing a disservice to ourself and our work by staying very narrowly focused talking about criminal justice, right? Because when you talk about criminal justice, you get some people who understand, but when you're talking about voting, everybody contributes to that. So how do we break outside the media silo of traditional criminal justice talk and start being a part of Southwest by Southwest, Aspen Institute, other entities, Ms. Magazine carrying our story that our voices become the thought leader, that the public who are voters begin to trust. So I've been telling people, if you see JustLeadership in the media, we're really busting walls outside the traditional communication strategy because it is outside those walls of people who are going to vote on the issues that impact our lives.
And if we don't have a thread to them, if we don't have a voice to them, our actual work is going to always be stomped and pushed back. So the only way we can maintain the movement that we're doing and keep pushing forward is to actually keep our foot on the gas pedal, come up with communication strategies and come out of our small circle of criminal justice issue. This is a society issue, and actually everyone plays a contribution to that, so those people who are going to vote on our issues have to be educated and hear our voices as well.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (31:28):
Best advice for a closing plenary. Keep the foot on the gas pedal. So DeAnna, thank you. Erica, thank you so much. Amazing. You can see why they're on our advisory council, right? DeAnna Hoskins and Erica Bond. Thank you both for being here.
DeAnna Hoskins (31:51):
Yes, thank you.
Dr. Douglas E. Wood (31:51):
So, thank you.
Erica Bond (31:52):
Thanks for joining us for Shades of Freedom from the Aspen Institute's Criminal Justice Reform Initiative. We'll be back soon with more thought-provoking guests. So please subscribe on your favorite podcast app, or you can find all of our past episodes by visiting our website at www.aspeninstitute.org\cjri. This podcast was engineered and produced by Natalie Jones with research assistance by Willem Patrick. It was edited by Ken Thompson with production support by Christian Devers and Wanda Mann. CJRI's programs are made possible by support from Arnold Ventures, the Balmer Group, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Ford Foundation, and Slack.