A Pro for ConsJun 1st, 2012 | By Mike Reddy
Joan Brody is a grant-writer and political consultant working with the University of Chicago Crime Lab. A Kennedy School Graduate, she has worked with government leaders, police chiefs, and district attorneys around the world and has brought in over $300 million in public funding for the Cities of New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.
What do you think is the greatest obstacle to criminal justice reform in America today?
The seemingly easy availability of illegal guns has not been adequately addressed in this country. Political pressures have led to an inability to pass pragmatic gun control laws, or what I prefer to call gun safety laws because illegal guns are essentially a community safety issue.
As a grant writer, is it more difficult to find (or get) grants for criminal justice initiatives than for issues where more people would have a vested interest i.e. breast cancer?
On the private funding front, I find that most foundations understand the need to support criminal justice initiatives because feeling safe where you live and work are important to everyone. Moreover, public safety can be linked to many issue areas including youth, community development, health services, to name a few.
On the public front, there are a number of local, state and federal criminal justice grant opportunities. However, in the current economy, competition for these funds has significantly increased, making it more difficult to win a grant award.
What has been the most innovative criminal justice initiative or intervention you have worked on?
I was fortunate to be on New York City Police Department Commissioner William Bratton’s staff when CompStat was created in the mid 1990’s. People are often amazed at the simplicity of the CompStat management accountability model. I have found time and time again that simplicity is key to innovation.
Tell me about your past experience with lobbyists. How do you find the current lobby system affects crime policy?
Since the majority of my clients are from the public sector, I have not had a great deal of experience with registered lobbyists. However, I am a big advocate of networking and being proactive about going after funding, which are strategies that lobbyists might also use. Even with new lobbyist registration processes, lobbyists continue to have influence on many areas of public policy, including crime policy and especially in the area of guns.
It is human nature to interact and affiliate with other human beings, so probably no matter what procedures are put into place to limit influence, some people will have more access to policymakers than others. And subjectivity may leak into decision making.
From your extensive work alongside researchers, how would you describe the relationship between academia and the issues of the urban poor or adjudicated? Do you see a disconnect between the two?
Especially in the current economic climate, the relationship between academia and the issues of the urban poor and justice-system involved individuals are growing even more critical.
As public budgets are being slashed, measuring and evaluating outcomes are becoming more important as funders, both in the private and public sector, want to know that their limited resources are making a difference. I have also noticed that researchers are taking a more pragmatic approach realizing that public policy leaders are often appointed or elected to limited terms and cannot wait years for a long-term research project to be completed.
Today, researchers are becoming more and more involved in urban criminal justice projects and in a more rigorous, but also in a more practical and helpful way.
Do you see any current political players who you believe will have a positive impact on either low-income urban issues or criminal justice?
It is a unique and exciting time in Chicago’s history with three new leaders at the city, county and state levels at virtually the same time.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already made a positive impact on crime reduction with his innovative new Police Superintendent, Garry McCarthy. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and her staff have developed and are beginning to implement innovative youth crime reduction strategies. And Governor Pat Quinn has welcomed innovation especially in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice and Illinois Department of Corrections where new virtual education pilot programs are being planned, implemented and evaluated.
What would the ideal criminal justice system look like, from your perspective? Do you think we could ever get there?
The ideal criminal justice system would truly operate as a system with each part (law enforcement, courts, corrections, etc.) working closely with the others. Our system seems to be getting better with new technology that enables different parts of the criminal justice system to share information and data with other parts.
Communication has improved during the past decade, but coordination still needs more work.
Feature photo: cc/Rennett Stowe