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Christine Cole, Executive Director

With primary season in full swing and the general election around the corner, Americans are heading to the polls to exercise a fundamental right. For many, filling out their ballot might be just another quick stop on the way to work; for others, it might be an exciting time to look forward to every few years.

But for many voters – as well as election officials, volunteer poll workers, law enforcement officers, and others – the potential for violence at election and campaign locations, as well as attempts to overturn the outcomes, has added new concerns for the safety of individuals and the integrity of our democratic process. (It’s important to note that for many people, particularly people of color, very real threats to personal safety and access to the ballot box have existed since our country’s founding, and that recent events have brought those concerns to the forefront for people who may have taken their safety and liberty for granted.)

Since the runup to the chaotic 2020 election season, a growing number of resources has become available to public safety officials, community organizations, and officials at the state and local levels to anticipate potential threats of violence – particularly from far-right groups – and to guard against them by forging stronger partnerships with each other. CJI was fortunate to work with some incredible partner organizations to produce some of these resources, which remain relevant this election season and likely for more to come.

In the lead-up to the 2020 election season, many officials and organizations anticipated disruption and disorganization and sought advice from experts across the spectrum. CJI – with partners from Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown, Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton, States United Democracy Center, and 21 CP Solutions – was instrumental in connecting mobilizers for safe elections with safety officials in more than a dozen cities across the country. The introductions produced relationships that fostered trust and connection, agreements on shared goals, and commitments to non-violence.

Also in 2020, with support from the Trusted Elections Fund, CJI created and disseminated a resource for police-community engagement to protect people’s Constitutional rights. This guide was recently updated for the current election cycle and can be adapted to support planning and community engagement for a range of community-wide events, including elections.

The framework is based in community policing, advance planning, and a solid incident command structure. It includes steps to take at each stage: pre-event planning, during the event, and after, with specific steps for setting expectations, community outreach, safety measures, and communication. Some recommended steps in the guide include anticipating the potential for disruption and violence, building a strong network of community partners, and conducting public debriefings.

By following this guide, as well as other resources, officials, law enforcement, and community groups can work together to help ensure everyone is able to exercise their rights without fear of violence or intimidation.

We wish everyone a safe, exciting, and positive election season.
  • CJI released a series of reports detailing factors impacting community supervision success in four states and offering strategies for improving outcomes and safely reducing revocations nationwide

  • New CJI trainings offer tools to support people on community supervision with physical and behavioral health needs

  • CJI announced a restrictive housing technical assistance opportunity for state DOCs

  • CJI presented to Tennessee reentry staff at Second Chances Training Summit

  • Throughout the U.S., governors, courts, corrections systems, and law enforcement agencies continue to implement new policies to limit the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons. CJI continues to track responses

SPOTLIGHT: Virtual Crisis Care comes to Nevada
Law enforcement officers in Nevada now have access to critical new resources to help them respond to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis, thanks to a pilot program CJI helped design and launch.

In late June, state leaders announced a Virtual Crisis Care program funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and designed to address gaps in services in rural areas. The program connects law enforcement officers in 11 agencies to connect with behavioral health specialists using iPads and receive real-time support in responding to individuals in crisis.

The goal of the program is to divert people with mental health needs from the justice system and connect them with community-based services, particularly in areas where those services are lacking.

“Providing access to mental health care for all Nevadans is a priority and being able to work with our law enforcement partners to equip them with the tools and make sure that happens is a major step forward,” said Misty Vaughan Allen, Nevada’s state suicide prevention coordinator.

Nevada’s pilot program is modeled after South Dakota’s Virtual Crisis Care pilot program, which CJI, with funding from Helmsley, helped design and launch in 2019. In the first 18 months of the program, 80% of people in crisis were diverted from involuntary hospitalization or jail, and the program has since expanded to additional police and sheriffs’ departments.

CJI, with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, supported Nevada’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative process from 2018 to 2019. That effort identified a lack of community-based mental health services as a substantial factor driving an increase in the state’s prison population.
Thanks to our many partners and funders who help us make this work happen, including Arnold Ventures, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), National Institute of Corrections, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Pew Charitable Trusts, and several state, regional, and local jurisdictions.