Criminal Law and Justice

Distress Concentrated In Place: NYC empowers neighborhoods to define safety

October 19, 2021  • Criminal Justice Reform Initiative

When Renita Francois, Executive Director of the NYC Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP), asks the residents of the city’s public housing developments how they define neighborhood safety, crime is not at the top of their lists. From going directly to the residents – the people best informed to define safety – Francois’ office can build better responses to community needs within neighborhoods, and also use the resident input to guide city-wide policy improvements.

In this episode of Shades of Freedom, Francois walks us through some innovative approaches to neighborhood safety and justice reform underway in New York City, and the impacts they are seeing in the housing communities where they’ve implemented resident-sourced solutions. Please join us for this exciting look at how engaging communities in defining and solving their own challenges can lead to real change.

Podcast Transcript Available Here

Guest Biography:

Renita Francois is a neighborhood safety and engagement strategist combining lived, front line, and executive experience to support communities and government in building partnership, establishing common goals, and increasing opportunity, well-being, and equity in New York City’s most underserved communities. Mrs. Francois is the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, a citywide, multi agency, multi-disciplinary community safety intervention that centers public housing resident voices and priorities in the civic process. In this role she serves as a key advisor to the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice on public safety matters and oversees NeighborhoodStat, a signature initiative of the Office of Neighborhood Safety and an innovative model through which residents define what they need to feel safe and work with their neighbors, community partners and government agencies to achieve it.

Her experience serving as a resource coordinator working directly for the juvenile justice bench at Brooklyn Family Court, and as a frontline staff member for public housing programs in both Los Angeles and Compton, California, give Ms. Francois unique insight into the multilayered challenges facing vulnerable communities. Renita Francois holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Cornell University.

About Shades of Freedom

Shades of Freedom, from The Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, is a new podcast amplifying and uplifting promising efforts aimed at reducing mass incarceration, and looking at the ecosystem of related inequalities that surrounds and perpetuates incarceration.

The podcast can be found on all the major platforms, including Apple, Google, and Spotify. You can also listen from the series home page or listen to the current episode at the top of this page.

The Shades of Freedom podcast, hosted by Dr. Douglas E. Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, is named after and inspired by the book Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process, by Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.