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Safe Communities

Column: Partners in Safety
AAG Amy L. Solomon
Date Published
June 7, 2024

Mission in action: OJP focuses on community as co-producer of safety and justice

Last week, the Office of Justice Programs marked its new mission statement with events and products that highlight OJP’s work to support community-centered public safety strategies.

Square One Convening, “Creating Community-Led Safety: What Does It Take?”

Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon delivered keynote remarks at “Creating Community-Led Safety: What Does It Take?,” an event convened by Columbia University Justice Lab’s Square One Project. She shared OJP’s vision for delivering on its new mission statement: To provide resources, leadership and solutions to advance community safety, build community trust and strengthen the community’s role as co-producer of safety and justice.

“By explicitly embracing the community's role as co-producer of safety and justice, we’re expanding the scope of responsibility and possibility for the future of our communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Solomon. “We're bringing communities disproportionately impacted by crime, violence and victimization to the forefront of our strategy and broadening our concept of safety, from the mere absence of crime to the presence of thriving neighborhoods and greater opportunity for all.”

Solomon highlighted the ways in which OJP is bringing its mission to life, through its grantmaking portfolio, research strategies and technical assistance, and within its own organization. She noted that OJP is delivering much-needed federal funding to community-based services through initiatives dedicated to interrupting community violence, improving responses to individuals in crisis, meeting the needs of underserved victims of crime supporting young people impacted by violence and the juvenile justice system, reimagining responses to low-level crime and more.

OJP is also opening up new pathways to funding by investing in intermediary organizations to provide both microgrants and technical assistance to smaller community-based organizations implementing high-impact safety interventions, with a focus on building organizational capacity to grow and sustain their work over the long term. Solomon noted that many of OJP’s funding opportunities offer priority consideration for projects designed to advance equity, and to applicants that can demonstrate that their capabilities and competencies are enhanced because they identify as a population-specific (or by/for) organization. Finally, she shared the ways in which OJP is bringing the perspective of community into the federal government, growing the ranks of professionals whose lived experience in the justice system is helping to guide OJP’s work.

Solomon reflected on the contributions of The Square One Project, founded in 2018 with the goal of reimagining safety and justice from the ground up. “Square One inspired us to conceive of a future that elevates the principles of fairness, equity, truth-telling, parsimony and human dignity as central to safety and justice. To consider what’s possible if our center of gravity were to shift from overreliance on the criminal legal system to the community – to the organizations, institutions and people who have a deep and vested interest in creating opportunity and improving lives in their home neighborhoods.”

Solomon concluded, “What we’re trying to achieve here is a fundamental reimagining of public safety. How do we expand the pool of resources so that community investments begin to approach the scale provided for the justice system?... At OJP, we are using the levers we’ve got to strengthen – to invest in – to support – the role of community as co-producer of safety and justice. Let us broaden our coalition and build out the community ecosystem so that it is a central and lasting part of our public safety infrastructure.”

The Square One Project event was moderated by Executive Director Katharine Huffman and also featured a panel discussion with Pastor Michael McBride of LIVE FREE USA, Jocelyn Fontaine of the Black and Brown Collective for Community Solutions to Gun Violence, Jawanna Hardy of Guns Down Friday, and Chief Ernie Cato, a longtime veteran of the Chicago Police Department who is now with the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Roundtable on Supporting Communities as Co-Producers of Safety and Justice

Public Welfare Foundation Roundtable

Assistant Attorney General Solomon and Public Welfare Foundation President and CEO Candice Jones co-hosted a roundtable that brought together community leaders and philanthropic partners from across the country to identify opportunities to better support community-based organizations as key partners in the public safety infrastructure. The roundtable offered a forum for OJP leadership and philanthropic partners to hear directly from organizations on the front lines of addressing violence and other criminal justice issues, with the goal of identifying opportunities to better support and strengthen the community’s role as co-producer of safety and justice.

Candice Jones

The CBOs who participated in the roundtable represented a wide range of community-based work, including efforts to 

respond to and end domestic, sexual and community violence; divert youth from the juvenile justice system; and support reentry outcomes.

New Funding Opportunities and Other Resources

Assistant Attorney General Solomon wrote a recent blog post about the tangible ways that OJP is working to advance the new mission statement and support communities as co-producers of justice. For example, the Bureau of Justice Assistance is seeking a training and technical assistance provider to support justice-focused CBOs that will primarily work with historically marginalized and underserved communities, including rural communities. The provider will help remove barriers to applying for OJP funding, while also enhancing the quality of services provided to communities disproportionality impacted by crime, delinquency, victimization and violence.

In addition, OJP is working to make solicitations more streamlined and clearer for potential applicants. The Office for Victims of Crime, for instance, is seeking to fund organizations that provide for the basic needs of crime victims, such as transportation, temporary and transitional housing, clothing, food and other items necessary for their well-being, healing or safety. This funding opportunity presents the information in simple, clear language, with an option to submit a project plan instead of a written project narrative and abstract. The project plan can be submitted through written answers to a questionnaire, a video describing the plan or a live oral presentation to OVC via video meeting.

Additional funding opportunities include the Community Based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative, which aims to prevent and reduce violent crime in communities; Second Chance Act programs designed to improve reentry education and employment outcomes and incubate community-based reentry programs; community-based approaches to prevent and address hate crimes; the development of community-based continuums of care for youth at risk of becoming or already involved in the juvenile justice system; the BJA Visiting Fellows Program, which invests in current and future leaders in the criminal justice field and encourages those with lived experience to apply; and the OVC Human Trafficking Fellowship Program, which will assist the anti-trafficking field in identifying and promoting culturally responsive service models and activities, and encourages those with lived experience to apply.

Date Published: June 7, 2024

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