Communication Strategies for Criminal Justice Reformers


I’m Alan Jenkins. I’m executive director
of The Opportunity Agenda, we’re a social justice communication lab located in New
York, we use communication and culture to move hearts minds and policy. I’m gonna give you 4. So one of
the tools that we share with our allies is Value, Problem, Solution, Action; it’s a way
of structuring our communications around systems, reformed criminal justice,
immigration and and others, since the idea of leading with values that you
share with your audience, and that might be Public Safety, it might be common
sense and ingenuity it might be equal justice and the constitution, of talking
about the problem in a systemic way; how we’re falling short of that value, so, you
know, due process is a crucial constitutional right, it’s key to who we
are as a country, but we’re falling short when it comes to and it might be, you
know, indigent defense issues or it might be our immigration systems, but then
Solution: we need to be about solutions and solutions that make sense in the
context of the value and the problem that you’ve described. And then Action: nine times out of ten we forget to ask
our audiences to do something. It might be simply tell 10 friends on Facebook
or it might be hire somebody who is emerging from prison and trying to start
over but always asking for the action, so Value Problem Solution Action is
my wish-list for our our sector. It’s not enough to win a policy victory if it
can’t be sustained, if the key audiences are not yet with you. Litigation, organizing, research; research
can sit on the shelf if it doesn’t have a strong communications effort behind it
and so strategic communications it’s really thinking about who’s my core
audience and how can I talk about my goals and solutions in a way that is
understandable, free of jargon, for the audience’s I’m trying to persuade. Unlike any time I would say probably in
the last half century you have significant public support for
alternatives to incarceration, it cuts across ideologies so you have Christian
conservatives and law enforcement and libertarians as well as communities of
color and progressives and advocates calling for really significant changes. I
think from a communication standpoint the thing that we most need to do is
make sure that we’re taking advantage of that momentum and recognizing that it
may also be a window of opportunity, that we can’t afford to just hope that public
attitudes go and continue to go in the right direction. We need to be telling
that story over and over again of why this matters for our country, of why
they’re, we’re falling short and not living up to our full values as a
nation, why there are very specific solutions that
make a difference that are working in lots of different parts of the country
and they’re advancing all of our our shared goals and again what action
people can take. So this is our moment to really tell a new story and to move from
the level of interest and concern to real commitment and transformative
change.

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