Criminal Justice Reform Initiative

Now is the time to re-imagine the criminal justice system.

We believe that when justice is truly realized, both safety and opportunity are defined and created by communities themselves, so that they can be free of the heavy weight of the criminal legal system.

The Aspen Criminal Justice Reform Initiative’s work focuses on supporting and spreading the word about innovative local practices that can transform how we think of justice in the United States. We do this by looking beyond the justice system itself at other local government functions (such as housing, health care, employment, education and more) and their intersection with the justice system in ways that often lead – needlessly – to negative outcomes for low income and communities of color. We call this Crisis Management Governance, an often invisible method for managing local jurisdictions that over-relies on criminalization and other punitive approaches across many government systems, and is most frequently applied to lower income and higher minority neighborhoods within a jurisdiction.

Our new Justice and Governance Partnerships in select mid-size and rural/micropolitan communities work to transform community safety and promote justice reforms at the local level by joining together data-driven and community-informed policies and practices. This new rigorous, collaborative approach uncovers punitive, crisis management-based approaches to governing and reveals options for new solutions that bring forth greater community safety and opportunity.

In JGP jurisdictions, Aspen CJRI provides communities up to $1.5M in local funding over five years, and provides expert technical assistance, beginning with a comprehensive planning period that launches a local justice collaborative. Then, working with the Justice Mapping Center and other national partners, JGP sites will launch a new tool for local jurisdictions, the Justice Audit. The Justice Audit reports and tracks the forms of governance, policies, practices and the real world outcomes in criminal justice and the wider justice ecosystem within a community. The Audit is rooted in community-engaged development, transparency, and accountability in ways that push toward  community-involved justice. Based on Justice Audit findings and extensive community input,  partner jurisdictions then create Justice Reinvestment Plans – actionable strategies for improving local policy and practice across a broad ecosystem of supports that will improve the lives of those most impacted by the justice system.  Learn more about the Justice and Governance Partnerships.

Today’s world demands big dreams and big plans. We have both.

We hope you’ll stay in contact with CJRI: sign up for our email list, check out our upcoming and recent events and other news, subscribe to our monthly Shades of Freedom podcast, and follow CJRI on Twitter.