By Louis Kaufman, KKBE Team Leader, Charleston Area Justice Ministry
In 2011, Rabbi Alexander, KKBE and immediate past co-president of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) and five other clergy met and began to lay the foundation for what has become the CAJM. Today 30 diverse congregations are working together to empower marginalized people in our community, to bring about justice and fair practices. We do this by conducting research, educating the public, and publicly addressing the root causes of poverty and injustice. Through a process that begins with over 100 house meetings and culminates with an annual Nehemiah Action , CAJM transforms the systems that cause suffering by holding local officials accountable for resolving these inequities and injustices.
The impact CAJM has had on the greater Charleston community during its first four years is both significant and measurable. Approximately 2200 people attended our last Nehemiah Action in 2016. Our accomplishments include the following:
1) Early Childhood Development - In 2013, we lobbied the Charleston County School District (CCSD) to add 280 4K (pre-kindergarten) slots for child on their waiting list and worked with them to increase the reading elements of that program. We got the CCSD to continue the funding so that over 1000 additional children have gone through this program.
2) Positive Programs to Decrease the Rate of Out of School Detention - In 2014 we got the CCSD to pilot Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) in 10 schools. The program proved to be successful that in 2016 we got the CCSD to extend this program and add Restorative Justice in all 83 County schools.
3) Risk Assessment Instrument (RAI) - In 2013 we got all four police departments worked with us to develop a RAI that is currently being used to evaluate every juvenal that is arrested. Thus, by using a RAI a police officer can make an objective decision as to whether to send a child to their parents, a half-way house or the detention center.
4) Wage Recovery Program - In 2015 we got the Charleston County Council to fund a Wage Recovery Program for low wage earner that have been cheated out of their money by their employers. In the past year this program helped over sixty families recover over $7,000.
5) Racial Discrimination in Policing Practices - In 2016 we asked the Cities of Charleston and North Charleston to make specific and measurable commitments toward ending racial discrimination in police practices. Both police departments are making improvements, but they refuse to have external audits that include racial discrimination practices as we have requested.
At this year's Community Problems Assembly, we decided not to take on a new issue this year, but to continue working of the issues from prior years as follows:
We are looking for team members to join five teams that KKBE has this year. As a team member you are requested to come to the following four meetings:
Winter Congregational Network Meeting - at KKBE, date & time TBA
RALLY (Prepare for the Nehemiah Action): Monday, April 3, 2017, 7 p.m., location TBA
NEHEMIAH ACTION: Bring 3 people with you - Monday, April 24, 2017, 7:00 p.m., location TBA
CAJM CELEBATION: Monday, May 22, 2017, 6:30 p.m., location TBA