Known on the streets as “No More Prisons”, the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives (IJJRA) has been working in New York City for thirty years to reform the justice system. IJJRA’s long organizing history has humbling beginnings, starting as a think tank in a prison in New York. The organization is now based in Medgar Evers College. Their latest campaign is to raise the age of when young people can be tried as adults. There are many offenses that call for a young person to be tried as an adult, and a majority of these offenses are non-violent.
IJJRA was chosen by The Urban Labs to be the first of its community partnerships, working together to test the practical application of networking technology.We were attracted to IJJRA for one basic reason: their organizing prowess. The Urban Labs believes the relationships true organizers build in their community will allow for a deeper reach into the networks of that community.
IJJRA and The Urban Labs started with testing the SMS code with an organizing curriculum they are doing at West Brooklyn High School.IJJRA and I met yesterday to debrief the short code and set a plan to scale the SMS program into anorganizing plan.
There are three ways the organizers of IJJRA want to use the use of the short code:
1) replicate the school curriculum at alternative schools in the fifteen most impacted neighborhood in New York.
2) Begin to test the usage in Bar Sessions (their organizing building block – small group dialogues).
3) Set a key word that we test “going viral” in the juvenile justice community.
Once testing the process through the organizing campaign with this class the short code campaign we created for West Brooklyn High, IJJRA will continue integrating the SMS program into their outreach plan.IJJRA has been a wonderful test because they are actively engaging young people in an ongoing campaign, which give youth a chance to actively engage their community and collect data with the tools as a group.They also have a solid understanding of their organizing, so they actively participate in understanding and recognizinghow they can apply this tool to their work.
Since the beginning of this partnership, there has been a huge learning curve for the organizers to shift their understanding of this new technology and to see it as a tool to deepen face-to-face interactions, not to replace them.The Urban Labs is seeing a need to find culturally relevant training on the basics of social networking and its technology.
Next week the youth will start using the code in the community with a homework assignment about the causes of violence.
Post by Malia Lazu.