This panel discussed how advocates with diverse perspectives and experiences can create more concerted efforts for reform. Ana Yáñez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, began by explaining the importance of selecting allies strategically and referenced her work with the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Mark Levin. For Yáñez-Correa, forming an eventual partnership is first about building trust and friendship.
Heather Rice-Minus, Justice Fellowship’s director of government affairs, further talked about building trust with different groups and the challenges she faces if her organization disagrees with a partner. As Rice-Minus explained, Justice Fellowship’s commitment to human dignity requires that they work with both violent and nonviolent offenders, which can prove difficult for some partnerships. She stressed, however, that long-term relationships built on trust can help mitigate this friction.
Setting a common vision and identifying common goals is key for these alliances, according to Alison Holcomb, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign for Smart Justice. Holcomb agreed with Yáñez-Correa that more local coalitions are necessary for effective reform, adding that a diversity of voices and experiences helps influence the public as a whole as well as a wider range of stakeholders.
For Holly Harris, executive director of U.S. Justice Action Network, nontraditional alliances with a diversity of reform groups and advocates can create tension with leaders who share her views on other issues. In order to convince this audience about the merits of certain justice reforms, Harris suggested finding strong data to demonstrate the efficacy of such reforms, particularly data showing that overincarceration does not benefit public safety.
The panelists made a number of recommendations for how to spur more action towards reform, including building a pool of talented criminal justice journalists at the state and local levels, researching successful state reforms like nonmonetary bail, and having greater representation of female reform advocates, as the fastest-growing prison population in the United States is women. Learn more and submit your proposal for reform by visiting the Charles Koch Foundation’s Requests for Proposals page.