There has to be a better way to protect our neighborhoods...
The Peace and Justice Law Center formed to address the concern that war-on-gangs policing and routine police misconduct are making communities less safe and less just. Having worked closely with community organizers and gang intervention workers for nearly two decades, the PJLC's founders committed to supporting the work of grass-roots leaders to end counterproductive policing. They founded the PJLC to ensure that community leaders who are personally impacted by the criminal justice system have the best possible legal support and that their ideas are represented in legal and policy forums where impacted people are rarely fully heard.
As its first project, the PJLC partnered with the Criminal Justice Clinic of the UC Irvine Law School and with community groups in Orange County, California to provide direct legal services to young men and women referred by gang intervention workers and who were counterproductively targeted for harsh and unjust policing.
Rooted in this direct service work, the PJLC next looked for opportunities to make a larger impact. The PJLC began challenging gang injunctions -- civil laws suits that use gang allegations to effectively put people on lifetime probation regardless of whether the person ever committed a crime. Next the PJLC's work grew to include impact litigation to implement California's Racial Justice Act, legal support to grassroots organizations, technical support to legislators and community members seeking to reform California's STEP Act, and co-sponsorship of the Decriminalizing Neighborhoods Conference and National Network.
More recently, the PJLC has expanded to look for new ways to challenge the routine misconduct of law enforcement and the systemic oppression of poor communities of color. Following the same approach the PJLC uses to address counterproductive gang suppression, the PJLC is entering this work by serving victims of police misconduct and by partnering with organizations led by impacted people. By focusing on the routine misconduct that is rarely the basis of lawsuits -- trashing a house during a search, refusing to return phones seized as evidence, stopping people for needless and confrontational street corner detentions -- the PJLC will next look for opportunities to broaden this work to make a systemic impact.
In the future, the Peace and Justice Law Center will continue to advocate for more effective and fair approaches to public safety that (1) reduce neighborhood violence, (2) reduce state violence, and (3) decrease racially discriminatory targeting by the criminal justice system.
Our accomplishments include:
Partnering with the UCI Criminal Justice Clinic to remove individuals from the state's gang database;
Offering expert testimony to stop the deportation of individuals falsely accused of gang membership;
Partnering with the UCI Civil Rights Litigation Clinic to pursue litigation that will fully implement California's Racial Justice Act;
Co-sponsoring the Decriminalizing Neighborhoods Conference;
Providing technical support to the author and sponsors of AB 333 (Kamlager), the state legislation that tightened the rules for when prosecutors can seek a gang enhancement;
Challenging the OCDA's practice of suing gangs under the Corporations Code so as to deny due process to individuals;
Writing amicus letters for appeals with the potential to change the law;
Co-organizing the Decriminalizing Neighborhoods National Network