Good morning. It’s such a privilege to join you and this esteemed group of speakers. I’d like to thank Marc [Morial] and the National Urban League for this invitation, and for your deep commitment to meeting the needs of African Americans and other underserved communities – in this moment and over many decades.
I’m both proud and humbled that the Office of Justice Programs is playing a role in addressing some of the critical challenges facing our nation today, many of them centered on issues of civil rights, racial equity and justice. We are working to provide communities the support they need to keep people safe, and aim to do so in a way that respects the dignity and humanity of everyone who comes in contact with our criminal legal system.
We are deeply committed to the safety of America’s communities and to promoting equity in our justice systems. These are twin goals, and they are mutually reinforcing. We believe that public safety and equal justice must go hand in hand. And so we are thinking about our work in new ways to meet the moment.
In that vein, one of my top priorities is reaching communities that have been historically marginalized, underserved and adversely affected by inequality. Inspired by the President’s executive order on advancing equity and racial justice, we are – for the first time – giving priority consideration to projects that promote racial justice and equity and to applicants that can demonstrate that their capabilities and competencies are enhanced because they identify as a culturally specific (or by/for) organization.
We are also making a concerted effort to reach victims and survivors who have been historically underserved, whose experience of victimization has never been properly acknowledged or addressed. Our Office for Victims of Crime is now supporting Ujima, a national organization dedicated to ending violence against women in the Black community, to run a new National Center for Culturally Responsive Victim Services to expand outreach and support to victim service programs in marginalized communities.
OVC is also supporting Hospital-Based Victim Services, to ensure that trained victim service providers are on hand to offer gunshot survivors and assault victims critical assistance, immediately. And this year we will be funding a new initiative that will identify the needs of those who have suffered harm as a result of a failure or error of the criminal justice system.
We’re also working closely with Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and our colleagues in the Civil Rights Division to improve enforcement of Title VI, which provides safeguards against discrimination and disparate impacts in the use of federal funds. We want to send a clear message that using federal funds in a way that furthers discrimination will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.
We also know that too many neighborhoods are dealing with gun violence and its tragic aftermath. The Department is taking a multi-faceted approach here, and I’d especially like to highlight our new community violence intervention strategy. Here we aim to invest in community infrastructure and expand the role of community partners, as a complement to law enforcement. Thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed into law by President Biden last month, we will invest a total of $100 million in fiscal year 2022 to support this work.
To help guide these efforts, we brought on board Eddie Bocanegra, who serves as our senior advisor for CVI. Eddie brings years of on-the-ground experience working with high-risk individuals, and expertise in building innovative, community-based solutions to address gun violence. The need here is urgent, and the President’s budget for the next fiscal year proposes to build on these investments in a significant way.
We are also supporting strategies that focus on treatment and services to help people in crisis, rather than solely relying on law enforcement. There is innovation on this front all around the country, showing that a public health response can both prevent crime and avert unnecessary engagement with the criminal justice system to begin with.
Lastly, I want to highlight one of our efforts to advance effective and accountable policing. In April, working with offices across the Department of Justice, we launched a new resource called the National Law Enforcement Knowledge Lab. The Knowledge Lab will promote constitutional policing practices through a hub of free resources that jurisdictions can turn to for support and a road map in building community trust while advancing public safety.
I’ll close with a pledge of our commitment to work with the National Urban League and community partners across the country to address the glaring inequities in our criminal legal system. These disparities have persisted for far too long and they’ve exacted a heavy toll on Black and brown communities. They also continue to undermine the integrity and legitimacy of the justice system. Building legitimacy and trust is critical to the health and vibrancy of our communities, and it is key to a stronger and safer America. I look forward to working with you to build this future together.