Government & Criminal Justice Domain

supreme court building
Meet the Voices behind this Domain

Criminal Justice Domain Voices

Jim Echols – Domain Leader

CEO, Renaissance Training and Management Solutions

Darryl Burton

COR Pastor, Co-founder, Miracle of Innocence

Jim Coleman

 

Michael Gibbons

Retired Corrections Officer

 

Carl Hughes

Executive Director, Brothers in Blue Reentry

Cheryl Reinhardt

Corporate Counsel, Zephyr Products

 

Chlo Rizzo

 

Rick Smith

Chief of Police, KC Police Department

John Vandewalle 

 

Jennifer Weimbold

Sergeant, KC Police Department

Jermaine Wilson

Founder, Unity in Community; Member, Leavenworth City Council

The Mission of the Government and Criminal Justice Domain

Kansas City area government and criminal justice leaders will unite for societal transformation, striving to abolish attitudes and practices that disproportionately disadvantage minorities within the criminal justice system. We will stand shoulder to shoulder, working toward restorative justice and transforming this legacy remaining before us, one step at a time.

If you would like to join us in our mission, please read the Covenant of Racial Reconciliation below and get started by choosing to do One Good Thing from our list of suggested actions. For more resources and information on upcoming Government and Criminal Justice Domain meetings, email us at government@unitekc.org. Together, let’s unite Kansas City!

Covenant of Racial Reconciliation for the Criminal Justice Domain

Whereas, our criminal justice system has evolved through decades of slavery and the civil rights movement and while it no longer condones overt racism, it did and at times does participate in the unjust treatment, arrest, prosecution and conviction of people of color.  This experience has created fear in those communities, leading to an implicit bias by both minorities and law enforcement.  These biases in turn lead to mutual mistrust which fosters a vicious cycle of negative interactions.

Whereas, police and community relations are often defined solely by enforcement activities, creating unintended consequences, including perpetuating an “us vs them” mentality, and perpetuating negative stereotypes on both sides.  We believe that both the police and the community want this to change and to develop relationships anchored in positive interactions and mutual support.

Whereas, to the extent that the criminal justice community has failed to recognize, recruit, mentor and create opportunities for people of color from the communities they serve, screening and training become even more important. Staffing positions from outside the community means that recruitment screening and training programs become doubly important to offset the implicit bias and possible fear of serving in places very different than their upbringing.

Whereas, transparency, openness and access to video and audio recordings, police search warrants, body camera recordings, citizens’ cell phone or other recordings, and independent investigations of all police-involved shootings or killings of a citizen (particularly unarmed people of color) are essential to justice for all in our community.

Whereas, the wrongful conviction of an innocent person is a travesty for all and this has disproportionately happened to people of color throughout history for reasons including racism and socioeconomic disparity.

Whereas, preventing people from entering into incarceration and the criminal justice system is critical to bring about societal transformation because once a person enters the system, it forever changes and defines their life opportunities and experiences to some degree.  As they reenter society upon release, in order to become successful returning citizens, they must overcome the trauma, shame, and criminal thinking that may result from incarceration, as well as societal prejudice and fear, lack of skills and education, support systems, mentors, and opportunities.

Whereas, women and particularly women of color are one of the fastest growing incarcerated populations. They are uniquely impacted by incarceration and require appropriate and specific responses and resources to enable them to successfully reenter society and reunite with their families.

 

Now therefore, by my signature, I commit to collaborate to:

Work to create opportunities for real listening between people with different backgrounds and experiences in an effort to promote relationships, understanding, empathy, and a mutual path forward together in our community.

Work to create police policies and procedures that create accountability, to include a citizens’ review committee for independent investigations of police shootings or killings with regular updates about the investigation as determined appropriate by the committee. This process may include full disclosure of each officer’s history of the involved shooting or killing, any complaints against the officer(s), transfers from other police departments of the officer(s), and any other shootings or killings by officer(s) in question. The citizens’ review committee will be able to make non-binding recommendations of serious sanctions to both the police disciplinary authority and the District Attorney to include trial in a court of law, suspension, and dismissal.  If convicted, we support consideration of sanctions such as loss of all retirement/pensions, and a license to carry, purchase or own any type of firearms.  The citizens’ review committee will be comprised of a diverse group of citizens in our community who undergo training and adhere to procedures that protect and honor the integrity and competing demands presented by situations in which a person is shot or killed by police, including privacy, prosecution and investigation constraints to ensure fairness to the victim and the victim’s family as well as a fair trial as required by our constitution.

Support police and community partnerships through churches and other community organizations and work to build a series of positive interactions beyond enforcement support any further actions feasible to further the goal of helping to build relationships and erode the “us vs. them” mindset.

Work to promote participation and leadership in of people of color in criminal justice through recruiting, mentorship, training and development programs with a goal of advancing high potential employees into leadership. Promote policies that enhance screening and training to include training on implicit bias and use of force, include community members on review boards, and encourage officers to live within the community in order to ultimately address the implicit bias on both sides.

Support organizations that work to free wrongfully incarcerated individuals and help to develop support for those individuals and their families. Seek to identify biases and systems that lead to innocent people being wrongfully incarcerated.

Keep young people from entering the criminal justice system by partnering with schools, non-governmental organizations, and churches to love our youth and find ways to mentor and guide them, and by addressing those key issues that lead them to choices which bring them to the doorway of criminal justice.

Reduce negative impacts on people once in the criminal justice system and improving reentry success rates by partnering with and supporting successful existing community-based programs to provide the resources, training, education, mentoring, and support necessary for returning citizens to be successful upon release.

 

I commit to this Covenant of Reconciliation and to Do One Good Thing to make it real.

 

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Pick One Good Thing and Get Started!

Suggested Actions

Partnerships between police and community entities

  • Invite local police to participate in pick-up basketball – playing together on the same team.
  • Host a lunch for the police and community leaders with education as a topic.
  • Identify successful communities with groundbreaking police/community initiatives to benchmark.
  • Create a communication system that facilitates programmed dialogue between police and the community.
  • Schedule joint meetings between your neighborhood and local police to review last month’s call logs for the community.
  • Cross-Cultural Cohorts – bring other community leaders together with local police in small settings for education, sharing best practices and fellowship

Minority Participation in Criminal Justice

  • Encourage more non-white students to pursue a degree in government and criminal justice at local colleges.

Youth Prevention and Education

  • Volunteer at local high schools to begin to influence youth towards careers in criminal justice
  • Volunteer in teen mentoring programs – NCircle is working on one
  • Participate in Strengthening Family Bonds program sponsored by the non-profit NCircle to address and assist families as the key support to prevent criminal activity and incarceration.
  • Provide resources to children whose parents are incarcerated in order to break the cycle via non-profit like Gracious Promise.
  • Partner with the Unite KC education domain and their initiative to break the school discipline to prison pipeline.
  • Show videos about positive paths forward to your family on a Sunday afternoon
  • Hold a small group discussion in your home around a case study on positive policing.
  • Work to find solutions other than incarceration to respond to individuals suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues (eg. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3495267/)

Re-entry

  • Volunteer time with nonprofits that work within the criminal justice system to release innocent men and women as well as taking preventative steps to avoid wrongful convictions, prosecutions, and incarcerations.
  • Become a mentor or otherwise volunteer with one of the non-profits listed below. Get trained in your state to mentor re-entering citizens and assist with their re-integration.
  • Actively support existing efforts to provide education, training, and employment to returning citizens (Career Campus at Lansing Correctional Facility and also other Second Chance Pell efforts)
  • Work to find ways to address the shame of incarceration, probation and parole limitations, and church policies to provide community and support for returning citizens and their families

Education

  • Commit to reading and studying matters of race and justice, particularly relative to criminal justice.
  • Create a bibliography of helpful materials that can be shared with your neighborhood or church.
  • Promoting events like “The Underground” and encourage individuals within the greater KC area to use such opportunities to proactively bridge the racial divide
  • Request a presentation on re-entry to your neighborhood or church from an organization like Renaissance. https://www.renaissancesolutionsllp.com/
  • Partner with the Unite KC Healthcare domain and their initiative to address mental health and substance abuse in the minority community.
  • Share positive police stories with your organization and media to help combat implicit bias.

Curated Opportunities

Brothers in Blue Reentry

Brothers In Blue Reentry is a faith-based program, designed to equip inmates to function as positive, productive members of society upon release. We serve members both inside the prison and after release.

Brothers in Blue need people in the following areas:

  • Teaching
  • Worship
  • Mentoring
  • Speaking at churches
  • Leading Bible Study
  • Administrative
  • Special Events

Centurion

Centurion is a national non-profit (501(c)3) organization dedicated to the vindication of the wrongly convicted. Since 1983, we have freed 63 men and women who were serving life or death sentences for crimes they did not commit. That’s over 1,200 years of life lost. We take on the hard cases, the ones others leave behind. We re-investigate the crime, uncovering lost evidence, finding new evidence, convincing a coerced witness to come forward with the truth, overturning false confessions, and sometimes even finding the real criminal.

Over 1,100 new requests for help come to Centurion each year and we are currently developing more than 100 cases of wrongful conviction. Centurion bears all costs associated with proving our clients’ innocence and helping them get on their feet post-release.

 

Miracle of Innocence

We help free the innocent and provide care for them when they come home.  After an assessment and acceptance process, we assist innocent prisoners with referrals for legal representation. We assist with legal resources for case investigation, case development, trial resources, appeals, and prisoner representation.  We support the re-entry of innocent prisoners through referrals and placement for:​

  • Housing
  • Credentials & identification
  • Communication
  • Job opportunities
  • Education & training
  • Life skills & mentorship
  • Physical & mental health
  • Transportation

Village Initiative 

The Village Initiative is committed to helping “Returning Citizens” and their families rebuild their lives as they endeavor to reintegrate into society to become productive citizens. The Village Initiative further commits, to proactively working to prevent the incarceration of At-Risk-Youth and non-violent offenders through intervention and networking with other faith-based organizations, community leaders, business leaders, judicial authorities, state and local agencies, mentors, and volunteers. With all stakeholders, jointly working together, The Village Initiative goals are attainable.

We are focused on a holistic approach to offering wrap-around services to returning citizens, addicts, and their families to be productive members of the community. Services offered include job-placement, transportation, ID/birth- certificates, mentoring, parenting classes, food, clothing, licensed counselors (addiction, domestic violence, anger management, grief), support groups (gambling, mothers, anti-crime, anti-violence, substance abuse, grief), state-approved addiction treatment, transitional housing, game room, food pantry, and a computer lab.

Connections to Success

Connections to Success exists to empower individuals, families, and communities. We work alongside people of all backgrounds to equip them with the resources and connections they need to reach their goals and move toward economic independence and stability.   Whether you face challenges related to finances, incarceration, domestic violence, unemployment, or are just struggling to find direction – we are here to support you along the journey.

Through intensive research and years of experience, we’ve developed engaging programs that have a real impact in areas like:

  • Finding and maintaining employment
  • Training in specific skills: computers, trades, etc.
  • Education
  • Health and wellness
  • Workforce readiness
  • Confidence, self-esteem, and direction
  • Healthy parenting and relationships
  • Community connection
  • Setting personal goals and creating a life plan

Opportunities to serve:

  • Personal shopper
  • Donation Sorter
  • Mock Interviewer
  • Mentor
  • Provide lunch/dinner for a class
  • Speaker/seminar leader

Journey to New Life

Anyone re-entering the community after prison faces many roadblocks to success. But, for those dealing with the additional challenges of mental illness or prior trauma, substance abuse, and a history of incarceration, the journey is even more complex. Unfortunately, they had nowhere to turn for help. Journey to New Life was created to be that place.

When former offenders, regardless of their circumstances, successfully reintegrate into the community, they are less likely to commit new crimes — or create new victims. So it’s good for everyone.

We provide residential programs, permanent housing, emergency assistance, veterans programs, and disability assistance.

Journey to New Life is always looking for:

  • Office help Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, any time between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Client mentors to provide guidance and serve as life-skill coaches, training provided
  • Donation receivers and sorters
  • Gardeners to help with our annual planting and tending
  • Movers to pick up and deliver donations as well as help clients on their move-in day
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Any other professional skills

reStart

reStart empowers individuals and families to prevent, navigate, or end homelessness. As of January 2019, Missouri and Kansas have 8,560 homeless individuals and families. Through strong community partnerships and effective, diverse programming, we work to help those that come through the agency.

How You Can Help

  • ​On-site Outdoor Clean Up 
    • A clean neighborhood has an impact on our residents’ health. This activity is intended to reduce neighborhood clutter, nuisances and create a renewed sense of pride for residents residing in reStart’s Main Shelter Location.
  • Help a Veteran Shop
    • Shopping for household goods and groceries can be a hassle for many of the Veterans we assist due to the physical and mental demands. Grocery orders will be placed by our staff, and volunteers will pick up the items and deliver them to our clients. This opportunity will be on an as-needed or on-call basis and notification will be received within a 72-hour notice (at minimum). If you are interested in assisting our veteran’s shop, please click here.
  • Prepare Sack Lunch 
    • We need 30 sack lunches each week for clients who go to work. This preparation involves donating non-perishable and individually wrapped food items (see examples listed below), as well as assembling the sacks. We ask our volunteers to provide at least 15 sack lunches during this time.
  • reStart Move-in Kits 
    reStart Move-in-Kits welcome individuals and families into permanent housing with essential household items. By providing Move-in Kits, you help people thrive in their new homes. This preparation involves donating essential move in items (as suggested below) and assembling each kit.

Operation Breakthrough

The mission of Operation Breakthrough is to provide a safe, loving, and educational environment for children in poverty and to empower their families through advocacy, emergency aid, and education.

Programs cover Early Childhood Education, School Age, Smart Lab, Maker Space, and Outdoor Classroom.

How You Can Help

  • Early Classroom Volunteer – Assist teachers in daily classroom activities and routines. You must be at least 14 yrs. of age.  We ask that you commit to a minimum of 12 weeks if you wish to volunteer with our children from 6 weeks to 5 years. Shifts are Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
  • MakerCity Volunteer – Sign up for shifts in different zones in our MakerCity, learning alongside our School-Age students (ages 5-14) when you are available, with a minimum of 2 shifts/month. We are partnering with the Kansas City Public Schools during the day, so shifts are available while our School-Age students are at their schools. You will learn how to sign up for shifts during orientation. MakerCity volunteers must be 16 yrs. of age.
  • MakerCity Zones
    • DIY/Tutoring
    • Art Lab
    • Teaching Kitchen
    • Life Science Lab
    • Digital Media Lab
    • STEM Lab
    • MakerSpace
    • Textile Lab
    • Construction
    • Kindergarten Launchpad
  • Non-Classroom Volunteers – Serve as an office assistant and help staff with data entry, organization, and planning. We also need volunteers to help in our food pantry, clothing closets, or assist with donations.
  • On-Call Volunteers – For those who want to volunteer on an as-needed basis, you will be contacted via email from the Volunteer Coordinator about specific opportunities such as 5k races, third-party events, or helping at Operation Breakthrough with school-supply or holiday distributions.

Group Opportunities

  • Adopt a Classroom or Neighborhood – Address the needs of a specific classroom or neighborhood and provide donations of needed supplies or larger items, attend field trips, and classroom projects for the teachers and students.
  • Sponsor a Donation or Collection Drive – Sponsor a drive for much-needed agency items such as non-perishable food items, diapers, paper products, toothpaste/toothbrushes, or hygiene products. Please check with us for our current wish list needs.
  • Group Service Projects – Assist in the outdoor classroom and playgrounds by helping with grounds maintenance.  Assist with painting, cleaning, and organizing projects in our facility as needed.
  • Lobby “Take Home” Activities – Provide a take-home activity for our children as they are heading home from the center.  Create a craft project, coloring activity, or healthy snack pack to hand out to the kids.
  • Playground Pals – Interact with classes while on recess break out on our playgrounds or in the indoor activity areas, depending on the weather.  We need volunteers who are full of energy and are willing to jump right in!
  • Tour Our Center – Groups are always encouraged to set up a time to tour the Operation Breakthrough facility located in the heart of Kansas City at 31st and Troost.  Please schedule a tour at least two weeks prior to your intended visit.

Gracious Promise

The heart of our mission is to connect inmates to a vital relationship with Jesus Christ by exploring his or her spiritual interest and by sharing the gospel.  We provide opportunities for spiritual growth through bible studies, mentoring and personal contact with other Christian men and women.  We support this spiritual emphasis with a provision of material help that shows these men and women the love of Jesus Christ.

Our goal is to facilitate a successful transition back into the community by promoting spiritual maturity and by offering follow-up accountability.  We address both the spiritual and material needs of our clients.

Volunteer Opportunities

  • Visiting men and women of Christ – For additional encouragement and counsel, men and women in the Olathe and Gardner jails can request visits from GP volunteers during regular visiting times each week.

One-on-One Contact

  • Our volunteers are granted access to area jails and prisons to provide spiritual support to those incarcerated.  Prisoners sign up to meet with volunteers during weekly visits.
  • Correspondence – We send personalized, post-visitation birthday, Easter, and Christmas cards to those we visit, plus additional correspondence upon request.
  • Mentoring and discipleship – For clients interested in seeing ongoing life change, we offer the “Mentoring-2-Excel” program that matches faith-based people from the community with like-minded ex-offenders.
  • Support by area churches – We help connect families of the incarcerated and ex-offenders to area churches who can often assist with physical and spiritual needs.
  • Help for the children of prisoners – Our annual back-to-school backpack and Christmas Adopt-A-Family programs provide items for children who have an incarcerated parent and whose caregiver is currently working with Gracious Promise volunteers.
  • Therapeutic and residential center meetings – We provide weekly bible studies and church services at the Johnson County Kansas Residential and Therapeutic Centers in Gardner
  • Share the hope groups – We provide weekly Christian fellowship meetings for men and women who have returned to community life

Reaching Out From Within

Reaching Out From Within, Inc. (ROFW), a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1982, is a leader in rehabilitation programs for incarcerated individuals, and utilizes factually based concepts, welcoming volunteers and incarcerated men and women of all clerical and belief systems. ROFW’s rehabilitation program offers an opportunity for a “whole person” transformation for incarcerated individuals who want to make lasting changes in their behavior in order to become a role model for nonviolence, while still incarcerated, and becoming contributing members upon their return to our communities.

Volunteer Opportunities

  • Group Sponsor -Each inmate group has a volunteer sponsor from the neighboring communities in order to have their weekly meetings. We are always in need of more volunteer group sponsors. Contact us if you are willing to help out a non-profit volunteer group.
  • Mentor – We also have a group of community volunteers in Kansas who mentor ROFW group members as they are released on parole. The mentoring relationship begins 6 or more months prior to release and continues for 6 or more months following release. The volunteer sponsor mentors are matched with inmates who are releasing to the community where the mentor lives. Contact us at info@rofw.org if you have an interest in mentoring.

Firm Foundations

Firm Foundations Ministries provides housing and a Christ centered program to recently released prisoners focusing on successful re-introduction to society.  Our program simultaneously emphasizes multiple areas in the lives of each member including: 1. Providing actionable skills and resources to find and maintain stable employment, 2. Setting healthy and productive goals that lead to successful integration as returning members of society, and 3. Building a solid foundation of spiritual development with the knowledge and passion to live a Christ-centered life.

 

  • Volunteer as a mentor