How the Community Justice Project fights to close the criminal justice gap.
( Valerie Muzondi / Rowdy Magazine Art Director)
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Oh, America, the land of the free. The land with a criminal justice system, where the rich get a right to a fair and speedy trial and the poor get minimal protection, little to no legal assistance.
The imbalance of U.S law is real and the most marginalized communities are suffering in its tracks.
Instead of watching a community shuffle on by, the Community Justice Project is taking action to make a difference in racial justice reform now. The premise is non-negotiable: everyone has the right to receive strong, reliable legal care, regardless of their race, gender or economic background.
What is the Community Justice Project?
The Community Justice Project is a collaborative group of lawyers fighting to provide low-income and marginalized South Florida residents equal representation in the criminal justice system.
Founded in 2015 by Alana Greer, Meena Jagannath and Chuck Elsesser, the CJP offers legal aid on housing, employment, public benefits, immigration and community economic development.
Greer, Jagannath and Elsesser have dedicated their individual practices to civil rights issues as movement lawyers. Thus inspiring their combined goals to form CJP. The organization aims to offers a wide range of legal care, while it also trains other lawyers to be more aware of and skilled in addressing the needs of systematically disadvantaged communities.
The Community Justice Project isn’t just an organization; it’s a social movement striving to close the justice gap and fulfill the right to fair legal representation for all, beginning in South Florida.
What needs to be fixed in the first place?
The Legal Services Corporation reported 86% of civil legal problems reported by low-income clients in the U.S had received inadequate to no legal assistance in 2017. It was also reported 71% of low-income households would experience at least one civil legal problem within the year (1.7 million problems) and more than half would receive limited to no legal help.
The discriminatory, systemic issues are wide-spread throughout the nation, including in South Florida.
In the growing anti-immigrant climate by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and the Trump administration, the Gimenez-Trump policy converted local jails into the first stop to deportation. The policy has cost taxpayers $12.5 million dollars in additional jailing costs in 2017, and has disproportionately impacted Black immigrants, who make up 22% of those detained.
The Community Justice Project is determined to diminish such statistics through innovative legal work and organizing for stronger, reliable resources for everyone.
What has the CJP achieved in the past?
In April, the CJP filed a lawsuit to release harmless inmates from the poor conditions at the Metro West Detention Center amidst coronavirus outbreaks, with the help of the Dream Defenders, Advancement Project National Office, Civil Rights Corps and, GST LLP. The efforts of defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges have successfully reduced the inmate population in Miami-Dade county from about 4,000 to 3,200 so far.
As Miami-Dade County developed a growing anti-immigrant climate, the CJP has stood by immigrants and their families filing lawsuits against Miami-Dade for unlawfully detaining people on ICE’s behalf.
The Community Justice Project’s main initiative is to recognize all racial, economic and other civil right’s related legal work but also considers how they can help transition attention to the powerful voices behind the communities most affected.
By collaborating with grassroots organizations such as Dream Defenders and Power U Center for Social Change, they have brought forth community leaders and slowly brought greater attention to combating the endless layers of our oppressive system. Most collaborations are through their capacity building workshops and community projects. Members or interested persons are welcome to attend any event to organize, learn, or network in hopes sparking even more community-led initiatives.
The mission is clear: Well-trained legal advocates are a necessary human right. No community should be ostracized or ignored and any voice within the criminal justice system must strive to uphold conscious law practices. Prejudices and stigmas are to be left out, especially when someone’s life and freedom are at stake.
Want to help right now?
Educate yourself on the disparities in the criminal justice system.
Have difficult conversations on the subject with those around you.
Register to vote for officials who will take initiative to close the justice gap.
Sam is a staff writer at Rowdy Magazine. She enjoys long summer days, funk music and drinks her coffee black because she's a tough guy. You can follow her on Instagram @samanthax1999x or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.