Reimagining Public Safety: Community Listening Sessions with Black Communities and Public Defenders

This report is the product of a one-year project to hear directly from Black communities about what safety means to them. The Black Public Defender Association, in partnership with the BlackRoots Alliance, Cook County Public Defender, and Northwestern University, conducted more than 100 interviews of Black residents in Chicago to collect their stories and advice on how to reimagine public safety. Through listening sessions, this project generated key insights, including how “[s]afety consists of the spaces and times where Black Chicagoans feel free to live their lives.” This includes both the absence of “harm, worry, and caution,” as well as the presence of “freedom, comfort, and peace.” This project revealed that currently, Black Chicagoans feel the most unsafe when they are outside of their homes and around the police. Residents called for stronger investments in their communities and for increased training of police officers to respond appropriately and fairly. Community members also discussed common perceptions of public defenders, such as their lack of time and investment in cases and offered advice to strengthen the community’s trust of public defenders. Specifically, participants explained the need for public defenders to better understand the communities they serve, improve case investigations, and strengthen communication with their clients, especially around the client’s legal options. This report centers the experiences of communities and system-impacted individuals in the discussion on how to reform policing and carceral systems and offers an example for the youth justice space of driving reform by amplifying impacted voices.  

File Type: pdf
Categories: Research, Resource Library
Tags: Youth & Families, Youth Defense Research Priorities, Youth Defense Systems, Youth Participatory Action Research