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  • Cohort 2021

    Just Communities Arizona

    Understanding Residents’ Definition of Community Safety to Guide Public Investments

    Tucson, AZ

    When justice system actors talk about increasing community safety, they often mean increasing punishment, surveillance, and incarceration. When community members are asked what they mean by safety, they provide very different answers, focusing on strategies entirely outside the justice system that advance wellness, health, and community cohesion. But most reform strategies are embedded in an enforcement-as-safety paradigm and rarely, if ever, reflect the needs, input, or participation of people affected by justice systems and processes.

    With Catalyst Grant funding, Just Communities Arizona (JCA) developed a survey to learn how Tucson residents define community safety and what investments they think would improve their safety and well-being. It took a participatory research approach based off a 2021 qualitative report, The Barrio Centro Community Safety Participatory Research Project Report, coauthored by Grace Gámez, a leader in justice advocacy whose work has provided a foundation for JCA’s. It hired and trained residents from the wards being surveyed (focusing particularly on Wards 1, 3, and 5) to administer the survey and share its findings. To date, JCA has received more than 700 responses from throughout Tucson. To report its findings, it has built a Power BI dashboard that will enable users to interactively look through the results and see responses by demographics, location, and other indicators. In May 2022, JCA received support from Tucson’s mayor and city council to expand its survey citywide. It will produce a final report summarizing findings to advocate for shifting funding for punishment to community programs and services and to center the expertise of affected communities in the development of city policies. 

    Read the Urban Institute's blog post on reimagining public safety in Tucson.


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