Reforming the justice system from a courtroom isn't cutting it for Keir Bradford-Grey - Generocity Philly

People

Sep. 29, 2016 12:54 pm

Reforming the justice system from a courtroom isn’t cutting it for Keir Bradford-Grey

The conversation on criminal justice reform is moving forward, but the Defender Association chief wants to see more intervention in the child welfare system.

Keir Bradford-Grey speaking at a DNC panel event.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

Everyone is talking about criminal justice reform. Keir Bradford-Grey wants to see more action.

“I feel the needle moving in terms of the conversation,” said the Defender Association of Philadelphia chief, whose organization enforces political neutrality. “I feel like systems are so bogged down and compounded, the people in the systems are so overburdened, that it’s so hard to look at a way to do things different.”

Policymakers on both sides of the political aisle have rallied around reform, but what is actually being done to create real change?

Nationally, the federal government has cut off funding for private prisons. Federal reentry counselors are being advised by formerly incarcerated individuals such as Philadelphia’s own El Sawyer. Locally, a $3.5 million MacArthur grant is being used to cut recidivism rates, supported by a growing network of nonprofit providers, grassroots advocacy initiatives and public policy tweaks supporting successful re-entry.

Bradford-Grey isn’t satisfied with that progress. The focus right now, she said, is on the front end of criminal justice — supports being put in place for the thousands of people in Philadelphia alone who have been or are currently caught up in the justice system.

From our Partners

The defense attorney wants to see more supports in the child welfare system that take generational poverty and injustice into account.

"The people in the systems are so overburdened that it's so hard to look at a way to do things different."
Keir Bradford-Grey

“When we talk about criminal justice reform, we rarely mention the child welfare system and the trajectory of those children,” she said. “The struggles they have, the trauma and abuse, they perpetuate into our justice system and we never look back to see where we failed, where we went wrong and what we need to do to fill those gaps.”

There are no “special accommodations” made for children who grow up dealing with the collateral damages of abuse and neglect, she said. Those are things she’d like the city’s pending MacArthur-funded recidivism reduction algorithm to account for — something she made clear at a recent City Council hearing.

If there’s some kind of algorithm created, said Bradford-Grey (with emphasis on the “if”),  it needs to look at the history of abuse, trauma and treatment services.

“Sometimes you’ll see there wasn’t much [treatment],” she added.

A self-described “idealist who thinks she can save the world,” Bradford-Grey sees her nonprofit providing supports beyond the courtroom.

“We’re not just people who go and represent people to get them off,” she said. “We’re also community problem-solvers. We deal with the issues that land people at our doorsteps. We use social workers to help address needs. We deal with policy issues that impact people systemically. Those things perpetuate the cycle.”

The cycle. Another thing we all talk about, and another thing we haven’t been able to stop. Real change will require a psychological shift in believing the cycle can cease — rather, knowing that it in fact does cease, if only momentarily.

“One thing we have to let people understand is that, even if someone goes to jail, they are coming out,” Bradford-Grey said. “If we do not address these issues, they won’t be any better off.”

Want more richly researched and deeply sourced community reporting?  Become a Generocity member for $10 per month -30-
LEAVE A COMMENT

From our Partners

Peep Hopeworks ‘N Camden youth’s heat maps of the country’s biggest donors

Why it matters that the Commerce Department’s new website is easier to read

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

Nonprofits and startups can win up to $360K at the WeWork Creator Awards

1315 Walnut Street, Suite 1300, Philadelphia, PA 19128

Bread & Roses Community Fund

Project Manager

Apply Now
415 E. Athens Ave., Ardmore, PA

St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Ardmore, PA

Part-Time Controller

Apply Now
Philadelphia

Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia

Manager, Membership Growth and Stewardship

Apply Now

Philly’s new Mayor’s Volunteer Corps program wants to make it easier to find service opportunities

Philly’s new LGBTQ board prep program is prioritizing accessibility

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

12 Philly immigrants who are ready to mobilize

Bryn Mawr

ElderNet of Lower Merion and Narberth

Executive Director

Apply Now
Radnor, PA (Philadelphia suburbs)

The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration

Development Manager

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

Episcopal Community Services of the Diocese of PA

Financial Specialist

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity