People powered victories!
Oct 1, 2020


It has been exactly 25 months since I assumed the helm of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA). Since then, our advocacy work in our backyard has resulted in New York City being the most decarcerated city in the country. We are focused on replicating this success nationally, region by region, as we boldly aim for our goal of cutting the correctional population in half.

And we are not done. JLUSA has big goals for the upcoming year in our mission to elevate, educate and empower the people and their communities most impacted by systemic racism to drive, amplify and sustain policy reform. The upcoming election, and the country’s national conversation on systemic racism, represents a crucial opportunity for us to invest in directly impacted people, so they can deepen their advocacy and leadership skills, and create policy reform in their own communities.

We are even more committed to witnessing true liberation and lasting freedom, nationwide. With the success of our #JustUS campaign, and our national “Rebuilding the Table”presence at the Democratic National Convention, we know that local efforts such as closing Rikers Island is a very small piece of the fight. Indeed, our current moment calls for us to think “Beyond Rikers” and focus on investment in people and their communities.

To be clear, New York City is our home. We remain committed to seeing not only the shutting of Rikers doors forever, but the building of our communities for the long term.

We are working with researchers to develop surveys and community engagement tools to assist directly-impacted communities in identifying community needs and gaps for various demographics. We will provide our directly impacted leaders with the support and training they need to convene their community members for community planning sessions, hearings and budget advocacy meetings to communicate the specific needs of their communities. These decisions for New York City and State are made based on research, data and what we know from our experience as members of directly impacted communities.

In even more exciting news, JustLeadershipUSA has partnered with our national alumni community to develop an exclusive curriculum in partnership with American University. This curriculum will not only allow JLUSA to have its own intellectual property but builds off the leadership training we have led for the past 5 years. JLUSA will have the first ever leadership curriculum designed and developed exclusively by formerly incarcerated individuals.

Beginning in 2021, keeping to our founding principle of investing in directly impacted individuals and communities, we will be expanding our Emerging Leaders training to provide intense training based on the curriculum inspired by Harvard professor Marshall Ganz. We plan to add C-Suite training opportunities based on assessments of applicants and alumni needs in areas such as: Org/Business Development, Fundraising 101/102, Communications 101, Board Dev 101 and key career areas such as CEO, COO, Development Dir, Project Management 101, etc.

JustLeadershipUSA remains committed to focusing on those most impacted to drive the policy changes they desire, to build thriving, healthy and sustainable communities for themselves and their families.  We look forward to working side-by-side with you to achieve a decarcerated U.S.  Please feel free to reach out to me with questions or ideas.

Thank you for your continued support!

DeAnna Hoskins, President/CEO

The year so far:

Photo: #JustUS billboard in Columbus, OH – Kaitlin Walsh


In June, we launched #JustUS, a national campaign to decarcerate the United States by calling on policymakers to immediately adopt federal and state-based policy recommendations to save the lives of incarcerated people during ANY type of major crisis or emergency.

After the success of all of our local campaigns, we knew we had to launch a national campaign to give our Leaders the power they need to pressure lawmakers into creating comprehensive solutions that address the gross lack of public health and emergency management plans in our nation’s correctional facilities.

These solutions must recognize the common humanity and dignity of all people within the criminal justice system, and mandate that jurisdictions have a readiness and preparedness plan to ensure the well-being of those remanded to their care.

We must put an end to the racist and abusive pipeline that continues to lock people up — from the courts to the prosecutors to law enforcement. This refusal to save the lives, most disproportionately Black and Brown, reflects the idea that we are disposable. We are human beings and our lives matter.

It is time to create proactive solutions to decarcerate when man-made or natural disasters inevitably strike. No one deserves to die behind bars.

Join #JustUS and send a letter to your legislators and demand they ACT NOW!

Rebuilding the Table

Rebuilding the Table: As part of the #JustUS campaign, we held a two-day panel accompanying the 2020 Democratic National Convention for directly-impacted leaders to offer support, ideas, community needs, and partnership to the Democrats, the Biden campaign, and to the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force on criminal justice reform.

On August 17, formerly incarcerated leaders, elected officials, entertainers, storytellers, and policy makers came together to discuss the painful legacies of racism and mass incarceration in America, while illustrating how we can effectively rebuild the criminal justice system so that it works for communities, families, our society, and those individuals who are currently incarcerated. Watch both days of the panel here.

Correctional Facility Disaster Preparedness Act

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth introduced the “Correctional Facility Disaster Preparedness Act,” a bill that will require the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and National Institute of Correction (NIC) Advisory Board to take measures to ensure the health and safety of people in federal prisons during presidentially declared disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires.

JustLeadershipUSA applauds and endorses Sen. Duckworth’s recommendation to expand the National Institute of Correction Advisory Board by permanently appointing a formerly incarcerated person to the Board. This is absolutely vital in protecting the lives of our incarcerated brothers and sisters. The recommendation of federal incentives for states and local governments to adopt emergency management policies is central to JLUSA’s #JustUS campaign, and will help save more lives.

JLUSA’s urges Congress to pass this bill NOW!

#WORKINGfuture in Michigan

In September we saw two victories for Michigan Statewide Organizer Hakim Crampton and the #WORKINGfuture campaign. The state House of Representatives approved a bill making it easier for people with a conviction history to get occupational licensesand the Senate approved a package of expungement reform bills that will remove barriers to employment, housing, and other opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.

Live with #JustUS

Our bi-weekly Facebook Live events began this summer, hosted by DeAnna, Ronald Simpson-Bey, and our other Leaders, on the intersection of the criminal justice system and COVID-19 pandemic as part of the #JustUS campaign.

These discussions have become a major part of our work in elevating, educating and empowering the voices of directly impacted leaders.

Watch our Facebook page for the discussions!

JustLeadershipUSA’s rapid response fund

The pandemic has cost tens of thousands of lives, and put many people — including directly-impacted families — out of work. To help that directly-impacted community, we knew we had to act fast.

In March, JLUSA launched its COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, to help allocate funds to organizations and individuals hurt by the global pandemic. The goal was to get the funds into the hands of directly-impacted people and families who we know are traditionally the hardest hit in times of crises.

To date, we have distributed more than $80,000 in gift cards to hundreds of families throughout the United States, including New York, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Chicago. In a recent survey, we found that nearly 95% indicated that they would use the cash to purchase food, proving the need to support directly-impacted during this virus.

Leading with Conviction Goes Digital

Due to COVID-19 closures, 2020 Leading with Conviction national program will be held online for the rest of 2020 and the Leading with Conviction regional program will be postponed to next year. Applications are currently closed and will re-open in 2021 for the 2022 program. Learn more about our programs.

Congratulations to our graduating 2020 Fellows!

Upcoming Events

2020 Justice Out Loud! Gala

On October 6, join us in celebrating the achievements of DeAnna and Opportunity Agenda co-founder and past president Alan Jenkins.


Seventh Annual Leading with Conviction Benefit

Join us on November 18 for this year’s virtual gala!

Our work in 2019

Last year, we achieved historic victories in our #FREEnewyork, #CLOSErikers, and #WORKINGFuture campaigns.
Read more about our advocacy campaigns in 2019

Safety and Justice Challenge

In 2018, the MacArthur Foundation awarded us a grant related to the Safety and Justice Challenge project. Our new task was to help determine what the community engagement had been between the SJC sites and the directly impacted communities in those sites.

As a result, last year, we began our national Impacted Communities Criminal Justice Roundtable Discussions, as part of our work with the Safety and Justice Challenge. The discussions took place in Philadelphia in November, and New York in December, with the Delaware, New JerseyChicago, and Baltimore discussions held throughout this year.

The discussions help create meaningful dialogue, and more effective community engagement between the Safety and Justice Challenge program and directly impacted community advocates and activists.

Leadership Highlights

Betty Washington

#LwC2020 Fellow

“I think Alabama is going in the right direction, and I’m excited to be playing a part in making change happen.”

Read Her Story

Jason Hernandez

#LwC2020 Fellow

“I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but I’m going to get out of prison and I’m going to get my life back.”

Read His Story

JLUSA in the Media

  • In September, Ashish Prashar for CNN partnered with JLUSA on how Biden can undo past missteps that have contributed to the disenfranchisement of people of color and the poor.

  • In September, a judge blocked plans to build a new Chinatown jail, stalling the borough-based plan to close Rikers. JLUSA appeared in the story and demanded closing Rikers now in AMNewYork.

  • In August, Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! talked with DeAnna about Rebuilding the Table and ensuring directly-impacted voices are heard by the next administration.

  • Also in August, JLUSA spoke about holding the next administration accountable for real criminal justice reform in Huffington Post.

  • In July, JLUSA and A New Way of Life co-authored an article in Newsweek, calling on legislators to decarcerate the United States and adopt the policy recommendations in the #JustUS campaign.

  • In June, DeAnna joined multiple panelists at the Smart on Crime Innovations Conference, which brought together criminal justice reform experts and advocates from around the country to discuss how to bring transformative change in our country’s criminal justice system. JLUSA announced the #JustUS campaign during the opening session of the Innovations Conference. Watch the clip here!
  • In May, JLUSA joined U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Dr. Homer Venters, M.D, former Chief Medical Officer of NYC Jail System and Xavier McElrath-Bey, from Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth for a Town Hall, to call on Congress to release vulnerable populations from federal prisons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 600 people registered for our event, which you can watch here.


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