SCSJ’s Justice System Reform team promotes social and economic justice through its efforts to ensure police accountability, end racial profiling and mass incarceration, eliminate the unfair collateral consequences of involvement with the criminal legal system, and challenge systemic racial discrimination and inequities at all stages of the system.
SCSJ represents individuals and community-based organizations in cases throughout the South that raise important criminal justice issues, and that create the potential for structural change that will benefit entire communities and have positive implications for racial justice, particularly if there is community-wide organizing support.
SCSJ engages in policy advocacy around a number of different issues, including police accountability, mass incarceration, and helping people with criminal records reintegrate with their communities. We believe that individuals are not the sum of their worst mistakes.
Umar Muhammad Clean Slate Toolkit: The Umar Muhammad Clean Slate Toolkit is a free resource providing a step-by-step guide to the expunction process. With a typical criminal record expungement costing between $1,500 and $2,000 in court costs and attorney’s fees, the toolkit is designed to help individuals navigate the process independently, making expunctions easier to obtain for people of color and economically underserved populations.
We dedicate this toolkit to Umar Muhammad who was an upbeat, passionate advocate who committed his life to helping people of color who were impacted by the criminal justice system. He joined Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) in 2014, where he fought against the discrimination of justice-involved individuals. He was a community organizer and leader in All of Us or None, an organization that lifts up the voices of those most affected by mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex. Umar opened every Clean Slate Clinic by stating, “You are not the sum of your worst mistakes.”
Open Data Policing: Open Data Policing is a first-of-its-kind platform that aims to make real the recommendation of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to make stop, search, and use-of-force “data…publicly available to ensure transparency.” The site currently aggregates, visualizes, and publishes public records related to all known traffic stops that have occurred in North Carolina since 2002, in Illinois since 2005, and in Maryland since 2013. Data is collected in all states pursuant to mandatory data collection statutes and reported monthly to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Illinois State Police, and Maryland State Police. The platform does not alter or manipulate raw data. Where data sets are incomplete or missing, it is because they have not been reported to the state agency from which the site derives its records. Although the site permits users to identify the career enforcement patterns of individual officers associated with known traffic stops, Open Data Policing does not have access to, nor does it publish, the names of drivers, passengers, or officers involved in traffic stops.
Ban the Box: The “box” is that spot on many employment applications that asks whether the applicant has been convicted of a crime or been incarcerated. Some employment applications may even inquire into arrests. A Ban-the-Box ordinance would remove these questions from the application at the initial stage of the employment process so the hiring authority will first get an opportunity to learn about the candidate’s experience, skills, and personality as they relate to the position to be filled. The Ban-the-Box movement began with All of Us or None, a national grassroots civil rights organization that fights for the rights of formerly- and currently- incarcerated people and their families. SCSJ supports communities, municipalities, counties, and businesses as they move toward ban-the-box policies.
Fair Chance Business Certification: Fair Chance hiring is an incredibly impactful practice, especially considering that one third of Americans have a criminal record. Here at SCSJ, we believe that people are not the sum of their worst mistakes. Therefore, we recruit businesses and nonprofit organizations to create an inclusive hiring practice that selects candidates based on their qualifications, rather than rejecting them for their past mistakes. We call it our Fair Chance Business Certification.
In order to become Fair Chance Business Certified, businesses must:
- Remove all questions about criminal records from the initial job application form.
- Delay asking questions about criminal records until the applicant is given a conditional offer.
- Give applicants a chance to see any background checks you run.
The certification is free and open to any small business in the South. Certified businesses receive a free window sticker, access to special events, and resources for creating effective fair chance hiring policies.
SCSJ’s Clean Slate Project addresses the collateral consequences of having a criminal record, including barriers to employment, housing, and occupational licenses. We provide direct criminal record relief services and we support organizing efforts to ensure that people impacted by the criminal justice system are leading the movement for reform.