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New funding set to help stop racial inequality in jails

Pima County and YWCA join forces to create change
Pima County Jail
Posted at 9:36 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 12:31:47-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Pima County Justice Services Division and the YWCA of Southern Arizona are joining forces to stop racial and ethnic inequalities and part of the plan is to examine and help prevent the over-incarceration of minorities.

Liane Hernandez with YWCA and Kate Vesely with Pima County Justice Services both agree that a new $500,00 dollar grant from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will cover a new race and equity project called the "Racial Equity Cohort" to create change in the Tucson community.

"A big part of the work that we’re doing is trying to understand the stories not just individualized but how it affects an entire community,” Vesely said.

"The ways in which populations show up in the jail of circumstance are disproportionate to numbers in our community. It's also important to know how communities are surveilled, how much police presence is in a certain region, and how these circumstances arise, it's something we need to be very aware of,” Hernandez said.

$230,000 will go to Pima County to pay for data technology and the YWCA will get the other $270,000 to hire staff and put boots on the ground in the community. It's all part of a national 2-year safety and justice project. Micro-grants will also be awarded to local groups to continue the work.

“In order to have that trust be built and relationships built we have to continue to work as a collaborative and have some deep listening,” Hernandez said.

One of the main goals of the project is to create transparency of information and a dialogue with the public by sharing the research and data online.

"First and foremost, is the lived experience people who have their own story in the justice system or have had family members friends loved ones who have been impacted by the system in some form or fashion,” Vesely said.

Kate Spaulding with the Pima County Teen Court says another important part of the process is the creation of a new racial justice center at YWCA. Both teens and adults will be on hand for workshops to make sure all voices are heard.

"We actually get to recruit train and hire teens who have successfully completed teen court to come back and be co-facilitators of the workshops,” Spaulding said.

The other cities involved in the nationwide Safety and Justice Challenge project include the Chicago area, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. The groups will meet and compare notes on solutions in the months to come.

“We have both the capacity and the potential to do extraordinary things, not only for our community but really become a national leader in this work as well,” Vesely said.

To register for the MacArthur Foundation SJC Network Meeting on Feb. 1-4th, 2022, Click Here.

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