The Community Justice Network
An initiative of DRIVE.
The Community Justice Network (CJN) is a part of Fresno’s DRIVE initiative. It consists of a system of organizations based in Fresno’s most vulnerable communities, committed to shifting toward a community-centered public safety model designed to ensure the safety of all Fresno residents. For decades, community leaders and organizers have fought to change the gross disparities that exist in Fresno and provide support, resources and opportunities for the City’s most under-resourced and marginalized populations. These efforts have experienced insufficient resources and support from the City and have continuously been met with resistance and barriers along with limited availability of financial and physical resources.
Designed to create alternative paths from the present justice system, the network’s goal is to establish a sustainable matrix of resources, supportive services and access to real opportunities for Fresno residents of all ages at greatest risk of and/or who have had a history of contact with the criminal justice system. Through partnership with the Fresno Developing The Region’s Inclusive and Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) initiative, a 10-year investment plan to develop an inclusive, vibrant, and sustainable economy for residents in the greater Fresno region, CJN’s efforts will be housed in a single site location known as the Community Justice Center (CJC), and will foster collaboration and shared power.
The effort is grounded in the philosophy of restorative justice which recognizes when conflict or harm occurs, to the extent possible repairs the damage (physical and relational) and creates future accountability plans and/or agreements that work to prevent similar situations from recurring. Through the CJC, the CJN is committed to elevating the voices of those in greatest need and the farthest from resources, and to establishing a community-centered system of public safety that is grounded in shared power, voice and opportunity.
Through our membership with the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM), CJC was selected for a nationwide learning community in 2020-2022 with four other likeminded organizations:
- California Lawyers for the Arts, San Francisco;
- Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire in Savannah, GA;
- UNITY of Greater New Orleans of Louisiana;
- and 6 Rivers Dispute Resolution Center of Hood River OR.
Each organization was selected through a competitive grant process to develop conflict resolutions skills in young adults, creating opportunities to address institutional or community conflicts around racial and economic equity. An outcome of this partnership has both exposed and closed the gaps between local initiatives with similar missions addressing root causes of conflict and harm in historically divested and marginalized communities by restoring peace and safety. This has been accomplished through holding community healing circles, restorative processes and being first responders to community conflicts.
What was learned during this learning community can be applied right here at home through the creation and mobilization of a Community Justice Network. Thus, CJN was conceived!