By Susan M. Glisson

“If the abolition of slave-manacles
began as a vision of hands without manacles, then this is the year;
if the shutdown of extermination camps
began as imagination of a land
without barbed wire or the crematorium,
then this is the year;
if every rebellion begins with the idea
that conquerors on horseback are not many-legged gods, that they too drown
if plunged in the river,
then this is the year.”

From Martín Espada’s Imagine the Angels of Bread, 1996

In a recent meeting with a group searching for a way to confront racism in their community…

By Vivian D. Nixon, Executive Director, Community & College Fellowship

I walked into the conference room for the morning meeting. With a nod of greeting to familiar faces, I took my seat and resumed worrying that comments I was about to make would drift, making sense only to the unruly thought generator that is my brain. Such anxiety had kept me awake the previous night, prompting this journal entry:

May 10, 2018, Midnight — Square One, is not the same for all of us. We didn’t start from the same vantage point. When there was no CJ system, my ancestors…

More than 50 years later, black men in America are still not viewed as fully human.

By Eric L Cumberbatch, Executive Director, Office to Prevent Gun Violence, NYC Mayor’s Office

In April 1968, in what would turn out to be the final days of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to support striking sanitation workers. For weeks, proud and determined black men had marched the streets of Memphis wearing placards that read: I AM A MAN. It was a pointed message in a part of the country where many whites persisted in calling them “boy.” …

by Marcia Rincon-Gallardo, Executive Director, Alianza for Youth Justice

To end incarceration of Indigenous/Chicanx/Latinx/Afro-Latinx Two-spirit youth in the youth justice system, one begins with placing cedar smoke to honor the ancestors of Abyanahuac — the decolonized term for this continent — who universally welcomed and protected children as sacred beings. Our ancestors taught us that children were brought to our mother earth to be connected to all of creation through guidance, and that that guidance instills a sense of self-discipline and a responsibility to community. By and large, this guidance provided by original peoples relied on restorative practices in response…

By Nneka Jones Tapia, Managing Director of Justice Initiatives, Chicago Beyond

In May 2015 I was appointed to be the warden of Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois. Unlike my predecessors and most of the individuals responsible for correctional leadership across the country, I did not have a law enforcement background. What I had was extensive training and experience in clinical psychology and correctional mental health, having spearheaded several reforms at the jail to improve the identification and treatment of people with mental illness. I also understood the devastating impact that America’s criminal legal system had on Black families, as…

By Jonathan Simon, Lance Robbins Professor of Criminal Justice Law, UC Berkeley

Since the 18th century philosophers (think Immanuel Kant or Cesare Beccaria), usually responding to spikes in political unrest, have periodically returned to the search for an ideal system of criminal justice, freed of all the historic flaws of monarchical overreach, local corruption, and today many philosophers would add: racism, classism, ableism, sexism, heteronormativity and transphobia. It is to them that we owe the enduring appeal of such ideas as retribution, proportionality, and deterrence. Almost as old is the countervailing critical philosophical tradition (think Frederich Nietzsche, Karl Marx and…

By Abbey Stamp, LCSW. Executive Director, Multnomah County Local Public Safety Coordinating Council

Here in Oregon, it feels like opportunity is in the air. The days are growing longer, spring flowers are blooming, vaccines are rolling out, the COVID-19 outbreak in jail has abated, the jail population remains low, and local stakeholders are motivated to find ways to continue improving our local criminal legal system.

Opportunity, however, is not action. Hope, alone, doesn’t create change. Change requires commitment and collaboration that is grounded in values and vision.

The Square One Project’s Executive Session on the Future of Justice Policy created…

By Keith Wattley, Founder and Executive Director, UnCommon Law

Values are a representation of who we say we are or hope to be. They’re not always uttered out loud, but they nonetheless live in our policies and our practices, including where we dedicate our resources. Cultural hegemony in the United States is a process of continual gaslighting: on the surface, the system tells us we value things like respect for law and order, personal responsibility, and individual hard work. But, in fact, the system has taught us to value the protection of whiteness and its way of life, and to…

Jeremy Travis, Co-founder of the Square One Project and Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures, provided concluding remarks for a session of the Roundtable on the Future of justice Policy: Examining Justice Reform and the Social Contract in the United States on August 26th, 2020. This meeting focused on the importance of educational and economic mobility.

What an amazing conversation. This is what happens when smart, passionate people get together, not once, not twice, but three times, and develop what we call our “tapestry” of ways of thinking about the social contract.

I am going to be…

By Bruce Western

People in the United States should expect a range of political and social rights to help them navigate daily life, global crises, and everything in between. Yet the unalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” have never been guaranteed for all and the failed criminal justice “system” has been an oft-used tool to ensure that the social contract is not fulfilled for all, contributing to poverty and undermining opportunity.

At the second session of the Square One Roundtable on the Future of Justice Policy in mid-August, our participants dove into the history of our…


The Square One Project is a multi-year endeavor of @CUJusticeLab to reimagine justice policy in this country. #reimaginejustice

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