PHAR is proud to be among the many groups and individuals who have signed on to the letter below. On July 6, signers to the letter presented their concerns and demands regarding the City’s “Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) with Juvenile Justice System” which has been in existence for 3 years with very few results. PHAR has seated members on the Task Force and has taken this issue seriously throughout. With recent frustrations becoming more difficult to overcome, it was time to bring public attention to this matter.
Please read the letter below, share on social media, and if you would like to add your name or organization to the letter please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
…Stay tuned for more ways you can add your voice to the call to action!
July 6, 2015
Dear Members of Council:
City Councilors have the opportunity to ensure equal treatment in the juvenile justice system. To reach that goal, you initiated the Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) in Juvenile Justice Task Force over three years ago. Many of us serve on the Task Force and all of us have watched with interest, hoping Charlottesville will provide racially just services and address the needs of black young people and their families. Task Force members have dedicated tremendous energy and time to studying and addressing the local causes and effects of racial disparities in juvenile justice, and research-proven methodologies to reduce these inequities. Despite the significant expense of time and resources in pursuing this mission, the Task Force has fallen short of many of the reasonable expectations we have had for it. Three years after its inception, the question we continue to ask is “why?”
● Why are black children in Charlottesville being stopped and frisked more than children of other races?
● Why are black children getting arrested more often than children of other races?
● Why are more of our black children being locked up?
● Why won’t the Police Department provide accurate, up-to-date data about police stops and stops
and frisks of children?
● Why are more black children feeling like their interactions with police are negative?
● Why are direct requests from the Task Force repeatedly ignored, left unaddressed, or refused?
These are several of the important questions that the Task Force has not adequately addressed. Not only do we need a better understanding of how these and other inequities occur, but we need focused and timely remedies to continue making progress and ensure the Task Force accomplishes its core goals. The DMC Task Force has moved the ball forward in important ways, and we applaud the ongoing commitments of many Task Force members to achieving its mission. City leadership needs to ensure the work of the Task Force – including the work of committees/subcommittees – makes progress on a timetable that reflects the urgency of this issue. Now is the time to reinvigorate our efforts.
At the May 2014 work session, you received information about the Black Male Achievement Program and the Peer Network as two possible ways to address the effects of racial disproportionality in juvenile justice and other systems. Over a year later it has become clear these programs are not enough. There are still many unfilled needs (including children who need mentors and are not receiving this service), the Peer Network participants have yet to become involved in addressing juvenile justice needs, and many community members are not aware of these programs.
We call for a renewed commitment to addressing DMC in juvenile justice. The City staff has proposed closing down the Task Force soon, consigning these issues to an open-ended “monitoring” phase. We vigorously oppose this proposal. There is much more work to be done that requires the Task Force’s reinvigorated attention. At the community forums in February, community members shared their concern there was no clear and detailed work plan for the DMC Task Force. Since then, no such work plan has been developed, even though there is much more work left to be done. This situation leads us to more questions:
● Why doesn’t Black Life matter to leadership of Charlottesville, VA?
● Why is it okay to allow one more life to potentially ride the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” by shelving the DMC into a “monitoring phase”?
● What progress/outcomes does the DMC leadership view as successful enough to dismantle to task force?
Specifically, we urge:
1. Improved Accountability
a. Independent oversight of the Police Department is critically important. The City Manager should convene quarterly meetings of a panel of community members, including several who are involved in remedying racial injustice. They should receive timely, thorough and relevant information about racial disparities in police stops, review complaints and their outcomes, and sufficient other information to help them make rigorous recommendations about how to address the community’s needs. We hear time and again that the relationships between community members and police must be improved, and this would be one step in the right direction.
b. Police Department participation and accountability are needed. Community members have long asked for the Chief of Police to be involved in the DMC Task Force. His regular participation is necessary to show he embraces the mission and activities, and to ensure that senior staff help us to reach our shared goals. We have repeatedly voiced this concern to the City Manager and lead staff of the Task Force, but we still do not see Chief Longo at the table. In fairness, the Police Department sent representatives to some meetings for several months, but no one from the agency has attended the last two meetings of the Task Force. Why not? When will Chief Longo join us to show he is willing to dedicate himself to this process, and bring the power of his office to address racial disparities?
c. We need more information. We have repeatedly requested updated and comprehensive data about police stops of juveniles. Despite our understanding this information was forthcoming, it has been many months and our requests remain unanswered. How do we know what is happening and what needs work when we lack critical information? How will this failure of transparency be addressed?
2. Better Support for Children and Families
a. Prevention services must be improved. Children and families need support, not punishment. Prevention services were one of the five recommendations in the DMC Task Force report. However, the Task Force has no plan to address disproportionality in youth services, even though robust changes geared toward prevention are critical pieces of the puzzle. Relatedly, substance abuse is a well-documented problem among youth offenders, yet there continues to be a major gap in services for children.
b. Procedures at the Court Services Unit intake are important contributors to the problem. Children going through intake should always be allowed to bring a supporter or advocate. Right now that is allowed as a discretionary option, but it should be consistently encouraged. We also understand that local practice is such that young people at intake who have the option of agreeing to a diversion plan must admit responsibility for the alleged delinquent act, or lose access to diversion and proceed into the juvenile court. This is problematic for a variety of reasons, and is unfair and unnecessary. Diversion should be a path to supportive opportunities without pressure to “cop a plea” to access services.
c. We need to do a better job of educating the community about the juvenile justice system. We have supported updating the Juvenile Court Guide for over two years. Facilitating understanding of what all agree is a highly complex and challenging system is the first step to helping support families. The current draft is not adequate. JustChildren provided detailed and reasonable feedback, but the current draft incorporates almost none of it. Instead, it proposes to use complex language to explain complex concepts, and it fails to provide references to additional resources. At bottom, it is not user-friendly and needs to be changed.
3. More fairness
a. The DMC Task Force hasn’t tackled key policies, such as :
i. Commonwealth Attorney policies, including those governing decisions to pursue charges after a child is ineligible for diversion, matters relating to juvenile probation, and juvenile transfer.
ii. Court Services Unit policies including the requirement that juveniles must plead guilty to get diverted to community-based interventions (item 3b, above) and limiting the current discretion leading to detaining children found to violate probation in non-violent ways, such as school misconduct or curfew violations.
iii. Judicial policies have not been examined, but were identified as contributing factors several years ago. The “co-defendant rule” needs to be re-considered because it contributes to DMC and school failure. Under this judicial policy, a youth with no prior record who committed an offense with other youths who have prior records is treated as if s/he has a prior record. This makes youth fall behind in school, an example of the school-to-prison pipeline. Relatedly, judges should stop sending youth to detention for non-violent probation violations.
b. The connections with schools must be addressed with renewed attention. Much to our surprise, city staff proposed ending the School Committee last month, but there is much more to be done. For example, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) delineating the roles of School Resource Officers (SROs) was one of the key recommendations the Task Force identified as necessary to address disproportionality in referrals to law enforcement for misconduct at school. JustChildren shared model MOUs, giving Charlottesville the opportunity to become a model community, but a draft has not come before the Task Force. Although CCS has made substantial progress in reducing suspensions and expulsions, the data still shows stark racial disparities. In 2013-2014 three out of every four suspensions were of black students. The UVA DMC report released a year ago recommends several items in addition to the CCS-Police Department MOU, such as increasing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Restorative Justice practices, and enhancing professional development and increasing the use of disparity-reducing educational programming (e.g., Check and Connect). These are among the goals which have not received the attention they deserve.
c. Racial disparities in juvenile justice are connected to adult issues and other systemic injustices. The original report about by the Commission on Children and Families (2011) showed additional disparities in mental health, physical health and foster care. We also know that today’s youth offenders may be tomorrow’s adult offenders. Asking the Human Rights Commission to address adult offender disparities is inappropriate, due to lack of expertise and inadequate resources. Charlottesville needs to tackle all areas of racial injustice aggressively with plans to address the community’s needs!
We look forward to continuing to work with you, and hope that the city will re-invest in addressing these significant problems. We would like to recommit to ensure that Black Charlottesvillians are able to experience “World Class City” living.
Task Force Members
Albemarle-Charlottesville Chapter of the NAACP
The Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia
Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents
JustChildren, a program of the Legal Aid Justice Center
Gloria A. Beard
Ricardo L. Carey
Aryn A. Frazier
Robert Gest III
Curtis James Gilmore, Jr.
Albert D. Henderson
Leslie H. Scott
Cassandra D. Vest
cc: Maurice Jones
On April 23, 2015, PHAR, along with the NAACP and the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center co-hosted a candidates forum focused on improving the health of the African American community in Charlottesville.
All 5 announced candidates were in attendance and answered a variety of questions regarding the police, education, city planning, and jobs.
In addition to the questions asked at the forum, candidates submitted answers to a questionnaire sent in advance. NAACP Candidate Forum 2015 Questionnaire responses
See, in their own words, what the different candidates have to say about
– The Human Rights Commission
– Public Housing Funding and the Residents’ Bill of Rights for Redevelopment
– the Strategic Investment Area, mixed-income housing, and affordable housing
– the ABRT process (funding for non-profits)
– Jobs vs. Entrepreneurship
– Diversity on City Boards and Commissions
– The Disproportionate Minority Contact with the Juvenile Justice System Task Force
– City of Second Chances
– and more!
Read their responses by following this link: NAACP Candidate Forum 2015 Questionnaire responses
You Are Invited!
Join PHAR, NAACP and the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center for this very important event!
“How will Candidates Improve the Health of the
Thursday April 23
At the Jefferson School
African American Heritage Center in the Auditorium
Join moderator Karen Waters-Wicks and candidates for city council:
Wes Bellamy, Kathy Galvin, Lena Seville, Mike Signer, and Dede Smith
Sponsored by: Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP, PHAR, and
the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.
CRHA has proposed drastic changes to policies that will negatively impact our most vulnerable residents, and violate the Residents Bill of Rights for Redevelopment.
Show Up, Speak Up and Speak Out MONDAY April 20 at 3 pm (Basement Conference Room at City Hall), and MONDAY April 27 at 6 pm (City Council Chambers at City Hall).
Making Eviction a Last Resort:
In Partnership with LAJC and PHAR, CRHA Adopts Eviction Policy Changes
Charlottesville, Va., January 20, 2015 – After more than two years of vigorous campaigning by residents and advocates, on January 14 the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) formally adopted extensive amendments to its eviction policy. The newly adopted policy includes the majority of the changes championed by the Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) and Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC). Many of these changes had already been informally adopted by CRHA during the course of the campaign and resulted in a 91% decrease in evictions from 2011 to 2014. In a win-win, the policies – which clarify resident responsibilities and provide residents avenues to get back on track after periods of financial hardship – have also already led to increased rent collection by CRHA.
The new policy, among other things, clarifies that residents will be offered one-on-one meetings with housing authority staff prior to court action; repayment plans will be offered to all residents who fall behind on their rent but are otherwise complying with their lease; lease termination notices will contain a clear explanation of how to remedy the violation; and a summons to court can only be issued when the amount owed exceeds $50. On the whole, the new policy makes eviction a last resort.
This successful campaign began on September 11, 2012, when Ms. Seay, an elderly woman and long-term resident, was evicted from her CRHA apartment on South First Street, sparking a community protest. PHAR and LAJC realized a systemic approach was needed: a new binding eviction policy.
Throughout 2013 and 2014, PHAR organized community members to speak out at CRHA meetings and other public forums for changes to CRHA’s eviction policy. At PHAR’s request, CRHA placed a moratorium on evictions from September through November 2012, acknowledging that their eviction policy needed to be revisited. In January 2013, CRHA comprehensively amended its Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy but failed to revise the eviction policy. Frustrated, over 100 people marched in protest of recent evictions and in support of dignity for residents of public housing.
PHAR continued to meet with Commissioners, lobby for a new written policy, and raise awareness about the necessary changes that had yet to be made throughout 2013. As the year drew to a close and no policy changes were offered by CRHA, PHAR and LAJC worked together to draft their own version of a new eviction policy. Throughout the spring and summer of 2014, PHAR and LAJC met with CRHA Commissioners to discuss their policy proposal. After months of meetings, public dialogue on the issue, and sustained demands, in the fall CRHA staff held a series of highly productive meetings with PHAR and LAJC representatives. On January 14, 2015, the CRHA adopted almost all of PHAR’s and LAJC’s proposed changes to the housing authority’s eviction policy.
Over the past two years, PHAR’s sustained campaign succeeded not only in changing CRHA’s eviction policy, but also in making eviction a last resort in our community. PHAR, LAJC, and the Charlottesville public housing community at-large are pleased with the changes we were able to achieve in partnership with CRHA. We will stay vigilant to ensure the policies that drastically reduced evictions and are now formalized in CRHA’s eviction policy are respected.
The Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) was founded in 1998 and has become one of the strongest and most well-known resident organizations in the country. PHAR is the recognized “resident advisory board (RAB)” for public housing in Charlottesville. PHAR is made up entirely by and for people living in public housing. We advocate and organize in our community for systemic changes and assist residents with improving their quality of life.
Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) provides legal representation for low-income individuals in Virginia. LAJC is PHAR’s general counsel.
Follow Legal Aid Justice Center on Twitter @LegalAidJustice and find us on Facebook.
Check out our website! www.justice4all.org
Time to Celebrate!
The January 14 meeting of the CRHA brought about great victories for Residents, PHAR, and the CRHA.
After years of hard work two policies were revised to improve resident life in public housing, and the CRHA also approved an Annual Plan that protects residents, expands participation, and seeks to outline big improvements in CRHA operations in the coming year! Finally, the CRHA is committing to participating fully in the City of Charlottesville’s efforts to end homelessness in our community.
All that in one night! Of course, most of these changes have been sought by residents and PHAR for years and we thank everyone who has protested, spoken out, showed up, and helped us to identify what changes will most have an impact on resident quality of life.
Here’s what happened:
Eviction Prevention Put into Policy:
The effort to include prevention efforts and protect residents from eviction was begun in earnest on September 11 with eviction of an elderly resident from South First Street. A noisy protest was held, an arrest occurred. Residents demanded action form the housing authority! From there other protests ensued and culminated in over 100 people marching ion the streets for justice and dignity in public housing in May 2013. The CRHA had a hard time coming to see things from our point of view- but they did eventually. PHAR and Legal Aid presented a draft of a policy (informed by residents) and pushed to have it passed, after many arguments, and many more meetings, the CRHA staff and board came to support nearly all of the changes proposed by residents!
Over the years, PHAR’s strong push to prevent evictions had a huge effect even before the new policy was passed. We have pressured CRHA to use eviction only as a last resort, and we have seen evictions drop dramatically from 2011 to 2014:
A 91% decrease in evictions!
*Some* of the new changes to how CRHA approached evictions are:
– eviction only as a last resort
– Summons to court only issued for amounts owed over $50
– No summons before the 25th of the month
– repayment plans offered to all
– more hardship exemptions offered
– 21/30 notices only issued after other informal notices and one on one meetings with residents to resolve lease violations
… and much more!
Improved Resident Access to Community Centers
Similarly, PHAR has been trying for two years to get an improved Community Center Use policy that expands access for residents. This effort had been largely ignored by CRHA for a very long time. Residents and PHAR mobilized, and even threatened legal action for CRHA’s unwillingness to negotiate (a cool provision under federal law allows resident associations to have negotiations on community center uses). Eventually, a meaningful negotiaion occurred and PHAR secured almost everything we had asked for! Those changes include:
– Centers will be available more hours: 8:00am to 9:30pm.
– Residents will be able to reserve the centers for 6 -8 hours on weekends and holidays!
– On weekdays flexibility to get more than 4 hours if there are no other reservations in the 2 weeks before.
– Electronic key code system (“key FOB”) will be in place soon, giving residents better accessibility.
– No cameras! Video Cameras will not be installed in the community centers
– The requirement for residents to be in “good standing” was changed to allow residents to reserve if owing a balance of less than $50 for less than 30 days, and you can ask for a flexibility.
Annual Plan Includes Resident Desires and Addresses Concerns
After many conversations, and a blizzard of memos and questions, CRHA passed an annual plan that largely reflects PHAR’s concerns and desires. Unfortunately, the Board of Commissioners were still resistant to meeting with PHAR to craft the plan, and Commissioners failed to attend resident meetings. Nevertheless, PHAR’s suggestions for the annual plan made it into the plan. These changes are too numerous to mention but add attention to:
– Expanding Resident Participation and Guarantees for Participation in the Redevelopment Process.
– Ensuring attention to Relocation for Redevelopment
– Making Improvements to the Family Self Sufficiency Program and Collaborating with PHAR Efforts and the City
– Using responsible funding ideas for management and operations.
… and about 50 other things!
PHAR also pointed out inconsistencies and bad information in the plan that helped the CRHA avoid including incorrect information in the plan.
Attention to Homelessness
One mistake the CRHA almost made was to claim that the Annual Plan was “consistent” with Charlottesville’s Consolidated Plan. The Consolidated Plan calls for the CRHA to include a preference in admissions for homeless persons. The CRHA was negligent in providing ample discussion on the issue in advance of the decision, despite City officials and PHAR asking for the idea to be talked about. At PHAR’s insistence, a preference is to be had for homeless. This preference will most likely be for families with children and will be referred to CRHA from the Continuum of Care overseen by Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless. PHAR is glad to see CRHA partner with the City and our community to address this important issue.
PHAR UPDATE: MORE RIGHTS FOR RESIDENTS!
Did you know PHAR has been working to improve residents’ access to community centers? Yesterday a meeting was held between PHAR, the Legal Aid Justice Center and CRHA to negotiate. Major progress resulted!
Here are the “wins”:
- Better access for residents! Longer hours, less restrictions.
- Centers will be available more hours: 8:00am to 9:30pm.
- Residents will be able to reserve the centers for 6 -8 hours on weekends and holidays! On weekdays the limit will still be 4 hours, but you will be able to get more if there are no other reservations in the 2 weeks before the event. CRHA will try to be flexible if you have a situation that needs more than 4 hours.
- Electronic key code system (“key FOB”) should be in place near the end of the year.
- No cameras! Video Cameras will not be installed in the community centers!
- The requirement for residents to be in “good standing” was changed to help residents have better access. You will be allowed to reserve for an event if you owe a balance of less than $50 for less than 30 days, and you can ask for flexibility.
Thank you for supporting PHAR and helping to improve the quality of life in public housing neighborhoods! Together we can make a difference!
Come to the October 27th CRHA Meeting at 7:00 pm at City Hall and let them know you support these great changes to the policy that will increase resident access and use of our community centers!