Policy Advocacy & Public Partnerships: FDLA conceives of our programs as policy demonstrations, with pubic players ultimately being best positioned and responsible for providing them universally to all. Our 2013 policy agenda for ending incommunicado detention has all but been adopted, save the remaining need to require arrestees be able to access phones within an hour. FDLA educates, welcomes, and supports public partners to institute changes identified by our base of people affected by the criminal system through the leadership development process.

Safety & Justice Challenge: FDLA partners with the Justice Advisory Counsel of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to staff the community engagement activities of the Cook County Safety & Justice Challenge (CCSJC). Our Community Engagement Liaisons in Roseland, Austin and North Lawndale share information about CCSJC’s current strategies and related resources, and to get feedback from community members affected by the local criminal justice system on these systems, and ask what else might best reduce overincarceration and improve racial equity. Diverse such members gather for intergenerational, emerging adult, and full 5-week deep-dive dialogue circles to explore if and how racism and poverty have impacted their experience, share stories as to how, reflect on the relevance and accessibility of current strategies and identify additional priorities that SJC stakeholders may set as strategies for the coming year. The Safety & Justice Challenge is a national initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation aimed at local criminal justice system stakeholders working together to reduce overincarceration and improve race equity in the system. Local stakeholders include the (Cook County) Board President, Sheriff, State’s Attorney, Public Defender, Chief Judge, Clerk, and the (Chicago) Police Department.

Leadership Development: FDLA helps people affected by the criminal and juvenile systems and police overreach learn about and influence related policies, agencies, budgets and decisions. Through a leadership development ladder beginning often with participating in our programs, people are supported with the hope, skills and knowledge to help inform and implement these programs, identify related policy priorities, and hone skills such as public speaking, action research, issue framing, alliances and base building.