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Justice Programs Office

We advance a people-focused justice system through a collaborative approach that is grounded in research and innovation because everyone deserves equality and justice.

Mission

We partner with justice and community stakeholders. We conduct and apply rigorous research to develop fair and equitable policies and practices. We lead systemic and cultural change to break the cycle of criminal justice involvement, enhance public safety, and improve outcomes, recognizing the dignity of individuals, families, and communities.

Core Values

Equity: dedicated to a fair and equitable system for all   

Innovative: believe in leading systemic and cultural change  

Analytical: researched focused and data driven  

Collaborative: people and community focused  

Right To Counsel National Campaign: Stakeholder Engagement Report

Right to Counsel

The Justice Programs Office, a center in the School of Public Affairs, and the Right to Counsel National Campaign are pleased to announce the release of a new report that highlights how criminal justice reforms can and should incorporate the voices of public defenders, seeking to elevate the criminal justice reform conversation. Working together, criminal justice stakeholders can effectuate change and implement sustainable reforms. This document identifies pressure points in the justice system where we can make real change regarding the state of public defense systems and create a strategic plan for engagement, building on the Right to Counsel National Campaign’s existing theory of change. While investment in direct public defense reforms is critically important, investing in and involving public defense providers in systemic reform efforts, such as the ones detailed in this report, are essential for comprehensive, sustainable system change. We then hope to show how defense, instead of being an obstacle to reform or a separate component of the criminal justice system, can be a solution for many criminal justice challenges.
Read the Report

To learn more about the Right to Counsel National Campaign, check out the website and our social media channel, and sign up for our newsletter.

For more information, please contact Project Director Genevieve Citrin Ray at citrin@american.edu.

"No Money, No Lawyer, No Justice” A New Republic Article Examines Civil Legal Justice

The New Republic Illustration by Chloe Niclas

The Justice in Government Project’s (JGP) Karen Lash was recognized in a New Republic article uncovering the inequities of the civil legal system and the individuals mobilizing to fix them. Although two-thirds of Americans experience civil legal issues like eviction, domestic abuse, health care debt, and unemployment, the available legal remedies are often inadequate, inaccessible, and/or unknown. As the first executive director of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable during the Obama administration, Lash collaborated with 22 federal agencies to advance civil legal aid as a means to enhance government program effectiveness. The JGP replicates LAIR’s strategy at the state level. Read the article hereReTweet it.

Federal Pass-Through Funds Available to State & Local Courts Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic

Grants Matrix. 1. Federal funds, State administrations. Federal Agencies, to state agencies, to local gov., service providers, and courts.

Justice in Government Project director, Karen Lash, recently spoke with Danielle Hirsch and Zach Zarnow of the National Center for State Courts about federal pass-through funds available to state and local courts navigating the COVID-19 crisis. Their discussion highlights a new Grants Matrix of curated state-administered federal funds (including block, formula, and open-ended reimbursement grants) that can support court technology innovations that are especially important during COVID-19, such as teleconferencing for remote hearings, document assembly tools, or self-help websites. Lash walks through the first steps of the funding application process and gives helpful tips to consider when pursuing these opportunities. Watch here

Paper Explores the "Right to Counsel" Tension

Enhancing Caseflow Management to Ensure Effective Assistance of Counsel

In partnership with the National Association for Court Management and with support from the State Justice Institute, the Justice Programs Office white paper Enhancing Caseflow Management to Ensure Effective Assistance of Counsel examines how US courts can maintain efficient resolution of criminal cases while ensuring defendants have effective assistance of counsel.

In a courtroom, competing interests may emerge for judges and court administrators as the fair administration of justice calls for the prompt resolution of cases while ensuring enough time to support effective assistance of counsel. If these competing interests are not adequately addressed, a tension may emerge known as the “right to counsel tension.” 

The paper posits that these interests need not be in competition but rather be in balance to ensure a fair and just criminal adjudication system. Read the white paper

National Institute of Corrections Releases Report on Veterans in Prison

Soldier on battlefield.

The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) released Barracks Behind Bars II: In Veteran-Specific Housing Units, Veterans Help Veterans Help Themselves (Prisons Version). The report highlights programs in United States prisons that work to improve outcomes for justice-involved veterans, and — in doing so — increase safety for law enforcement officers, correctional officers, the incarcerated, and the public. The report showcases several facilities and corrections officials whose vision and initiatives led to reduced behavioral problems and incidents of violence by incarcerated veterans according to facility reports. Barracks Behind Bars II illustrates the design and development, implementation, and sustainment of the initiatives, including specialized housing and programming for military veterans. The 72-page report is the fourth in the NIC justice-involved veteran compendium project. Please click here to view and download the PDF.

JPO Blog

Man sitting on sofa

Can Treatment Courts Serve Those Convicted of Crimes Of Violence?

The COVID-19 pandemic is, to date, responsible for over  91,000 US fatalities and levels of unemployment not seen since the great depression. National Social Distancing Guidelines and State Stay-At-Orders in nearly all 50 states have upended many social norms and have led to deserted streets, empty shopping malls, empty schools and college campuses, and entire companies working from home.

However, one system where the need for social distancing, large scale testing, and enhanced medical care have been largely ignored is the justice system where the dangerous conditions in prisons and jails has led to uncontained outbreaksin several facilities. Some prisons and jails have released people in attempt to allow for social distancing, but those released have primarily been those convicted of non-violent crimes.

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Listen to Our Podcasts

Listen to our 3-part podcast series, Color in the Court: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Treatment Courts.

Listen

police officer, lawyer with prisoner, judge

Achievements ·

New Justice Report Recommends Accelerating the Pace of Reform

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Announcement ·

AU’s Justice Programs Office Launches Racial and Ethnic Disparities Assessment Tool for Courts

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