Justice Matters to hold its annual assembly seeking action from city, county and school board leaders

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Members of Justice Matters, a local coalition of faith-based organizations, on Sunday will ask people in power to commit to creating a more just Lawrence and Douglas County.

Organizers expect to bring an estimated 800 members of the community to the Lied Center, where the annual Action Assembly will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7.

Here are the main focus points for the organization this year, according to a news release from Justice Matters:

“Shifting from punitive disciplinary policies to restorative justice in our USD 497 schools. Justice Matters will invite a member of the school board to publicly restate a commitment the district has made this year to ensure high-level training in restorative practices for teachers and staff.

“Improving quality of life for our elders. Justice Matters will call for a commitment from county leaders to champion a local workforce development collaboration that will address the shortage of staff to provide care to Douglas County seniors.

“Ending our crisis of chronic homelessness. Justice Matters will ask city and county leaders to recommit to the goal of reaching functional zero chronic homelessness, to champion key Built for Zero tenets in the final version of the Douglas County Housing & Homelessness 5-Year Plan, and to take advantage of a statewide consulting contract with a nationally recognized expert on ending homelessness.”

Community members who are directly affected by these issues will also share their stories, according to the release.

There will also be an update from the organization’s Jail Alternatives Committee about the Vera Institute of Justice study of the Douglas County Jail, which found that almost one out of every three Black men ages 25-54 living in Douglas County were booked into the jail between 2017 and 2021. Among Douglas County residents in the same age group, 11.4% of Black women, about one in six Latino men (16.2%), and 7.9% of Native American women were booked into the jail during that time frame. (Read more about that at this link.)

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