June 8, 2023: The recently formed HBCU Criminal Justice Research Hub held its first public Hub meeting on May 31st, 2023. At this meeting, Hub members, including HBCU researchers, community advocates, and other subject matter experts, discussed the crime and carceral landscapes in Houston and heard questions and comments from community members. Hub members will utilize the discussions and community insights from this meeting as they plan to conduct a public safety needs assessment in Houston this year.
The Hub was created at the beginning of 2023 after the Center for Justice Research received a grant from the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity. The Hub brings together researchers, community advocates, community members, and other stakeholders and experts to collaboratively address violent crime and mass incarceration. With a focus on community-informed research and action, the Hub aims to expand the capacity of HBCUs to address the root causes of mass incarceration and violent crime and inform non-punitive interventions that are effective and sustainable.
“Community needs, as voiced by community members themselves, are really at the heart of this work as we look to interventions and policy changes to tackle these complex issues,” said Dr. Howard Henderson, Director of the Center for Justice Research. “We know that social determinants of health, and disparities among these factors, play a huge role in both crime and incarceration. We want to address root causes such as these, while also calling out biases within the criminal legal system that disproportionately affect Black, Latinx, and low-income communities in Houston.”
At the meeting, Juan Barthelemy, Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Houston, and LaTosha Selexman, Bureau Chief at the Houston Health Department, both presented on recent research and current initiatives aimed at violence reduction, examining juvenile justice, youth gun possession, and the city’s Community Violence Intervention and My Brother’s Keeper programs.
Following the presentation, Hub members engaged in a panel discussion before taking community members’ questions and comments. One panelist spoke about vulnerable communities, including Black and Latinx communities, that were hit hardest by the pandemic and the need for community input in addressing violence and over-incarceration. Another gave insights into his experience as a youth and adult moving through the criminal legal system and where he sees opportunities for better communication between researchers and community members, raising awareness about the school-to-prison pipeline and collaboratively working toward solutions.