Justice Reform Forum:
Arlene Ustin and Sheila Jaffe were participants in this veryimportant issue. Rosalind Murray is the Assistant ExecutivePresident of the PBC Criminal Justice Commission. Sheila was in the group working on the iCard (Informational card). She will be working on the Mental Health teams with Andrea G., another NOW member. Arlene was working with The Glades group. Their proposal is to establish a solid Reentry Center to serve returning citizens and their families, promotingtreatment programs, youth programs, employment, etc.
Arlene, Sheila and Rosalind are all past presidents of PBC NOW.
After the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police inMay 2020, the Criminal Justice Commission began holdingtown halls across Palm Beach County to listen to ideas aboutimproving the police. Saturday’s virtual event was one of thelast steps towards the CJC’s yearlong objective of presentingplans to achieve that goal.
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Justice Reform Ideas Pitched At Forum
By Chris Persaud
Palm Beach Post | USA TODAY NETWORK
More than 100 people pitched and listened to ideas Saturday onhow to improve trust between police and civilians, help peopleavoid a life of crime, and help former prisoners reintegrate intosociety.
The Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission co-hosted the virtual affair from 9 a.m. until just past noon. Amongthe Palm Beach County residents attending were current andformer police officers, local elected officials and at least oneformer prisoner.
Residents from across Palm Beach County shared and voted onideas to pitch to the Criminal Justice Commission. Theseincluded hiring full-time mental health specialists to workalongside police; training those in power about racism and howit’s embedded in institutions; and informing people charged withcrimes about their court appearance dates and how to findtransportation to them.
After the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in May2020, the CJC began holding town halls across Palm BeachCounty to listen to ideas about improving the police. Saturday’svirtual event was one of the last steps towards the CJC’syearlong objective of presenting plans to achieve that goal.
The racially diverse Saturday participants live all across PalmBeach County. Residents ranged from Boca Raton in the southto Jupiter up north, from Riviera Beach in the east to Pahokeeout west. They met in smaller virtual subgroups to hash outplans before presenting it to everyone else.
One participant, William Brannin, met with several others aspart of a Lake Worth Beach group. They suggested policedepartments hire specially trained mental health professionals tohelp officers respond safely to calls where they must deal withpeople who may have mental illness. The Delray Beach PoliceDepartment has such employees, Brannin said.
“We’re gonna see if there’s any interest with the city (of LakeWorth Beach) and see if I can get some resources with the (PalmBeach County) sheriff’s office and give that a go,” Branningsaid. “And we’ll be reaching out to Delray to see how they runtheir program and how exactly they run it and how they measuresuccess.”
Former Delray Beach police officer Rose Newbold presented anidea from that city’s subgroup to “fund Racial Equity Institutetraining for Delray Beach decision-makers.”
The North Carolina-based Racial Equity Institute says itsapproach “is designed to help leaders and organizations whowant to proactively understand and address racism, both in theirorganization and in the community where the organization isworking.”
Their goal includes helping organizations measure their progressto become “anti-racist,” the group’s website says.
The subgroup covering the Wellington, Royal Palm Beach,Loxahatchee Groves areas proposed making an information cardgiven to defendants alongside their notices to appear in court.The cards, written in English, Spanish and Creole, would informthe recipient about when their court date is and how they can getthere if they can’t legally drive or don’t own a car.
People who do not attend their court dates get charged with afailure to appear and can be sent to jail without bail. “This cardwould be given at the point of citation in the field by the issuingpolice officer,” said participant Jo Anne Davis. “It gives theinformation to the people so they can get to their courtappearances on time. … It will prevent a lot of re-arrests.”Additionally, she said, “It will cut the costs of housing offendersand cut the county budget.”
Each subgroup voted on one idea out of a set of three andpresented them to the larger group.
CJC board members will decide which of the winning ideas canbe implemented before they are presented to the Palm BeachCounty Commission in the coming months, CJC ExecutiveDirector Regenia Herring said.
“We really need to take action on what they presented becausethey gave us some wonderful ideas,” Herring said. Local electedofficials who attended Saturday’s session included Palm BeachCounty Commissioner Gregg Weiss, Lake Worth BeachCommissioner Sarah Malega and Riviera Beach City CouncilMember Julie Botel.
The CJC co-hosted the virtual forum with Community Partnersof South Florida, Everyday Democracy and Safety + JusticeChallenge. The CJC, created in 1988, works with representativesof the courts, law enforcement and the business sector toimprove the criminal justice system.