Advocacy agenda for 2017 shaping into action

By Emily Patka, AFJ Staff

In the aftermath of a stunning Presidential election, we gathered to plan. Collectively we felt the urgency to set an aggressive policy agenda for The Alliance of Families for Justice in 2017.

New and familiar faces filled the National Black Theatre in Harlem on Dec.10. Not insignificantly, it was our first community organizing meeting after the election of Donald Trump. I know I am not alone in the feelings of despair and hopelessness that have rooted inside me, despite my best intentions, since election night. Coexisting with these feelings is the awareness that the need to act is ever-present; that we have no choice but to push forward no matter what.

AFJ volunteer Eddie Rosario eloquently put our actions in context with a moving story about his years of legislative advocacy. He recalled what a veteran activist said to him in a moment of frustration and doubt. We may or may not see the fruits of our labor in this lifetime, Eddie reminded us, but we are planting the seeds for change that will someday take root and grow; we must keep pushing, keep cultivating. 

There are so many important and urgent criminal justice issues that require policy and/or legislative change; we were at no loss for topics to discuss. After a large group discussion, we broke into smaller groups to discuss our 2017 policy agenda focus areas:

  • parole reform

  • raising the age of criminal responsibility,

  • physical abuse in jails and prisons,

  • the prosecution of domestic violence survivors

  • treatment of people with mental health challenges

  • prison closures

The AFJ team is synthesizing and discussing the feedback from the meeting, and will soon announce our official policy platform for 2017.

We want to extend our gratitude to everybody who attended this meeting, in person and in spirit. This is a collective community effort, and we cannot do it without all of you. Stay tuned for next steps!