Last months’ “We Rise Together Town Hall” in Berkeley was a big success. Drummers welcomed a standing room only crowd at The Way Christian Center in Berkeley. The event was sponsored by the Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County (JRC/AC) in an effort to advance its “1400 Jobs for Freedom Initiative”. Last June the initiative was approved with a unanimous vote from the Board of Supervisors. With the goal of providing a significant number of good paying county and public sector jobs for individuals returning to the community from jail and prison, the initiative has fallen short of its implementation timeline.
Testimonies from members of the reentry community were presented to county leaders, including Supervisor Keith Carson, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Social Services Agency Director Lori Cox and members of Chief Probation Officer Wendy Still’s leadership team. The county officials reaffirmed their commitment to the initiative and determination to work with the Coalition to assure its successful implementation. Many in the packed church sanctuary responded with loud shouts of approval and applause when the officials showed support for the initiative and other justice system reform priorities.
The Town Hall’s upbeat evening was enlivened by music, songs, spoken word dramatization of overcoming reentry barriers to employment and a closing chant of solidarity. JRC/AC is a coalition of seventeen advocacy-oriented community based organizations. Urban Strategies Council is a founding member and hosts the coalition’s two monthly membership meetings.