Skip to content

The issue of racism is ingrained in nearly every institution in the United States. Racial disparities imbedded in the criminal justice system perpetuate generational cycles of poverty and social inequality throughout the nation’s history. Legal forms of discrimination, including the War on Drugs, voter suppression, stop-and-frisk policies, reprehensible actions by the public servants and community leaders, including but not limited to the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery emphasize the intentional subjugation of Black people. Many of the events targeting communities of color are all too often ignored by public media or minimized by political leaders, showing our society oppresses and diminishes the worth of Black lives in America. The injustice goes deeper than individual action of “bad apples.” The brutality and complacency of police officers in these events and others reflect greater societal tensions and racially biased views compounding over the past 400 years.

The Institute of Race and Justice (IRJ) was established in 2002 in order to research and understand racial disparities in the criminal justice system. National incidences of police racial profiling, disproportionate arrests based on race, and police-enacted violence during police stops were at the focus of this early work. As members of the IRJ, we recommit to continuing to provide research on racial disparities and partnering with the community to bridge the racial divide within our communities, policies, institutions, and most importantly, the criminal justice system. IRJ stands with communities of color and Black Lives Matter.

Moving forward, our mission will continue to reflect how our role as scholars dedicated to the issues of race and justice can contribute to meaningful change. But beyond reflection, there must also be a commitment to continued action. There is a need to recognize that our goal of creating a more equitable criminal justice system begins with holding our Institute accountable. Research is a vital tool for engaging with ideas for change and providing evidence so that changemakers can build ethical and responsible next steps. We cannot succeed in our goal without our students, staff, and colleagues, the communities we strive to serve, nor the policy makers who can use this research to effect change. As IRJ continues to evolve in this commitment, we outline action steps in three areas: academics, community and practice.

Academics

Racial inequities are ingrained in academic institutions. The costs of attending universities has made a college degree a less straightforward option for many low-income communities. Racism is also structurally ingrained in our hiring, training, promoting, and publishing practices. IRJ has to hold itself accountable for identifying institutional inequities and implementing practices that advance social justice inside and outside of academia. At the IRJ, we are committed to investing in ways that foster an inclusive environment and structurally address racial and ethnic disparities within our academic community.

Take Action:

  • Unpacking structural racism within academic institutions, through sharing research that exposes and addresses the causes of systemic inequities at academic institutions.
  • Hosting and promoting biannual training on racial injustice and collaborating with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice (SCCJ) and academic departments outside of SCCJ to create an environment that is inclusive of Black scholars and other scholars of color and improves representation in student cohorts, faculty and staff hires. The IRJ will work with students and faculty to share research about disparities in hiring, training, and promoting of Black scholars and scholars of color in academia.
  • Intentionally assigning, distributing, and referencing the work of Black scholars and other scholars of color. For example, students and faculty at the IRJ can dedicate peer-supervision groups every other month to discuss this work, hold team members accountable for citing and teaching practices, and organize open forums and seminars.
  • Supporting the inclusion of discussions on race and justice in all courses, especially within criminology, to promote critical and anti-racist thinking among students and faculty. To reach this aim, the IRJ will engage in efforts to construct a database with references to work of Black scholars and scholars of color, in addition to research unpacking racism and materials to restructure syllabi, courses, and trainings.
  • Providing opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students of color to engage in research within the IRJ or through IRJ’s network with other academic departments, communities, and practitioners, including efforts to secure scholarships for students within communities of color, which will be advertised through the website and through IRJ’s network.
  • Creating an environment that encourages the use of anonymous report systems, such as the Office of Institutional Diversity & Inclusion at Northeastern University, where students, staff, and faculty can report racist incidents on campus.

Community

To our community, we cannot do our work without the support and engagement of community members and agencies. It is because of community participation that meaningful scholarship can be produced from the IRJ that addresses the issues plaguing our criminal justice system. To make sure we are contributing to this mission within our Boston, and national communities, we will continue to engage with the Community Advisory Board and ensure that community activists, leaders, organizations, and policy makers are given the opportunity to engage with the development of research agendas and the entire research process.

Take Action:

  • Internally address the shortcomings of previous inaction and dedicate time and space to ensure the IRJ remains a resource for information and support for the community.
  • Utilize IRJ’s Community Advisory Board to create and initiate opportunities across the Northeastern community and communities of color, particularly Black communities, for meaningful collaboration and partnerships to address racial inequity in the criminal justice system.
  • Create a database on our website for materials, papers, seminars, books, and other social media resources, to assist community members in obtaining current research on race and criminal justice issues in accessible and digestible formats.
  • Enact policies that require accessible materials be created regarding on-going and completed research to be shared with the community.
  • Dedicate bi-monthly meetings to assess and discuss community issues, and what can the IRJ do to meaningfully address those issues.
  • Engage with the IRJ Community Advisory Board across all levels of the IRJ, not just faculty and staff.

Practitioners

The research conducted in the Institute on Race and Justice allows us to better understand the world in which we live. However, any work produced can only go so far, so we must have collaboration with practitioners, workers, and lawmakers within the criminal justice system to make widespread tangible change. With the position of institutional power and responsibility, coupled with resources and data found in the IRJ we must actively work in collaboration to address and combat unjust policies and
practice in the criminal justice system. Additionally, we are able to use this research in supporting progressive policy makers aiming for reform within their organization. Working in tandem with criminal justice practitioners, professionals, and lawmakers, we are collectively able to connect criminal justice practitioners with researchers and the community. Doing so will allow us to aid in informing policies and practices in the criminal justice system through the research and expertise found in the institute.

Take Action:

  • Use our research to suggest policies and practices that aim at addressing issues within the criminal justice system surrounding systemic inequalities.
  • Require that all research coming out of the lab be paired with a deliverable to organizations and criminal justice practitioners to inform them of the results of the study and be intentional of how the research is relevant to increasing justice.
  • Collaborate with agencies to create co-op opportunities for students to work and be involved in racial justice issues in the criminal justice system. Although co-op is separate from IRJ, our work can cultivate relationships with practitioners in the space of racial and social justice that may open doors for the development of co-op opportunities in these spaces.
  • Ensure the practitioners maintain a connection to both the lab and the community members with whom we work to enable communication about suggested actions.
  • Maintain an ongoing dialogue between practitioners and the lab to communicate the research and work at addressing potential policy and practice change.
  • Continue to monitor the extent to which research informed changes were implemented within the criminal justice system.

Historical incidents of police brutality towards communities of color is in direct opposition to the core values of IRJ and our work and commitment to anti-racism, equity, inclusion, dignity and justice for all. As the Institute on Race and Justice we are committed to do all we can to continue to work on addressing issues of race and injustice. As members of the IRJ, we recognize that we must do more to become more informed on social injustices and seek community input and suggestions on how we can improve and expand upon our role at this time.

We reaffirm our commitment to underrepresented groups including communities of color and specifically the Black community as a resource, partner, and ally to work together towards action and systemic change and further acknowledge that now is not a time to be complacent but to stand with Black Lives Matter.