JWP has now expanded to include other ways to advance justice by seeking to transform the criminal legal system via its Justice Action Fund (JAF). This fund was created to help provide resources for criminal justice reform initiatives in Athens and Oconee counties.
The original name of the fund was taken from the last lines of the Inaugural Speech given by the first-Latina District Attorney in Georgia, Deborah Gonzalez, on December 17, 2020.
“The time for transformative change is now. I can’t wait to start doing the work I promised I would do for YOU. Justice was on the ballot; now Justice is on the Agenda!”
So far the Fund has provided resources for trainings on restorative justice and trauma-informed prosecution for lawyers and members of the DA office staff; provided a grant to the DA office to support a community outreach liaison; awarded a number of mini-grants to organizations focused on youth development and community resiliency; and sponsored two book review programs: the Athens Community Read program “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” and the DA Office “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration.”
Become a Justice Warrior and donate for criminal justice reform here: https://secure.anedot.com/justice-warriors/jioa
Full text of speech below:
DA Swearing In Remarks, Deborah Gonzalez
Good afternoon and thank you – thank you Shane Sims for sharing your story and Judge Tate for officiating the oath – thank all of you for braving the cold today to stand here and bear witness to a historic moment in time.
Our message of fairness, accountability, compassion, and empathy resonated with thousands of voters in Athens-Clarke and Oconee. I am honored and humbled to serve as your next District Attorney. And I am so proud to be the first woman and first minority DA in this circuit, the first Latinx DA in the state of Georgia and the first female Puerto Rican DA in the country. We have made history together.
Being part of this campaign took courage, resilience, and a fervent commitment to justice, as well as persistence. Just a short time ago, we didn’t even know if we would have a DA election.
This campaign has not been an easy fight. When I first announced my candidacy just over one year ago, many viewed this campaign and this movement for reform as being too ambitious. We have proved them wrong. Thanks to your support, your hours of volunteering and voting, we stood up to the status quo and won. Thank you for believing in this movement and thank you for believing in me.
I want to speak for a moment now not just to my supporters, but to people who were on the fence or may have even voted for my opponent. Despite any differences in our politics, at the end of the day, we can agree on one thing: We all want a safe, thriving community. We all want to live in a place where young people stay out of trouble with the law, where a small step off the straight and narrow isn’t life-ending, where people feel safe in their homes and on the streets, and where Justice is… just.
We know the system as-it-is has not been working. We know there is significant racial bias present in our indictments, our convictions, and our sentencing. We know the human cost and the economic cost of locking people up have been staggering. At the end of the day, we know we can do better… We MUST do better, if we want to build the kind of community that keeps us ALL safer and gives everyone a fair chance at justice and life.
Although I’m being sworn in this week, I do not officially take office until the stroke of midnight on January first. Between now and then, I will be working with a team of people in the community and in the office to outline significant reforms and changes in policy that I will implement on Day One and throughout my tenure. You can expect a memo from me on January first announcing some specifics of those changes.
Reforming… and transforming… any public institution is a labor of both hope and uncertainty. For the people in this community for whose hearts have been broken because of a child or a parent or a neighbor unjustly locked away or killed or harmed. For the people in this community who are fearful or worried about how changes in the justice system may impact safety in our homes and on our streets. Even for the employees – attorneys and staff – of the DAs office (who are here), who wonder what impact a new boss will have on the workplace culture and mission. I hear all of you… your hopes, your fears, your concerns. And I will keep listening… Change is challenging, but I can promise you an open door and a transparent approach as we embark on this journey together.
But in terms of where we will be in four years’ time, we don’t have to wonder about whether reform can work or what change will mean. None of this is hypothetical. We are not experimenting or guessing. We are looking at what IS working already, taking best practices from other cities and jurisdictions across the country and our state and applying them here. Very simply, we are following a proven path in which justice, equity, and safety are working hand-in-hand to build more thriving communities. Other communities have done it, and we can do it here.
I would like to take a moment to address many of my supporters – but specifically to my father watching from Sanford, Florida in a language we share – Spanish.
Buenos dias a todos y gracias por el apoyo durante la lucha para protejer nuestros derechos de votar y las eleciones. Con nobre hispana de Gonzalez querio reconocer la importancia de este dia para nuestra comunidad – cuando por primera vez, hay un Latino eleccionado como fiscal de justiciar en el estado de Georgia. Estoy orgullosa en parar aqui enfrente te todos y representar los miles de Latinos en este estado y por todo este pais, quien luchan cada dia por sus familias y sus comunidades. Te digo que estoy a su lado y un nuevo dia has amanecido en Georgia y nuestra comunidad. Papi te pido la bendicion para que yo puedo tener la fuerza del espitirtu moral para hacer este trabajo tan duro. Soy su hija con su apellido. Soy Deborah Gonzalez. Te amo.
The time for transformative change is now. I can’t wait to start doing the work I promised I would do for YOU. Justice was on the ballot; now justice is on the agenda!
Thank you. Happy holidays. Gracias. Feliz Navidad y prospero ano nuevo.