Racial Justice Strategic Initiative

Break the Cycle of Mass Incarceration in New York

Trinity Church Wall Street seeks to advance racial justice by breaking the cycle of mass incarceration in New York City and beyond. This builds upon Trinity’s significant staff expertise in grants, programs, and advocacy, as well as the lived experience of a diverse staff and congregation that has worked on anti-racism for a generation. Mass incarceration in the United States is a product of racism and the legacy of slavery. We incarcerate more people than any other country in the world, with the majority being poor, Black, and Latinx. The criminal legal system has devastated families and communities and has failed to generate safety, justice, or accountability. Members of our church family have lived experience with the criminal legal system, whether that be as a police officer or someone who has been incarcerated.

New York City has led the nation in decarceration efforts, but far too many people remain behind bars, with a disproportionate number of people of color impacted.  Trinity’s Racial Justice Initiative will support efforts that fall within three areas of focus, as described below.

LEAD: Trinity will help advance a new, racially equitable justice system that centers community-based restorative and transformative approaches instead of incarceration.

Few people think the criminal legal system is fair, but we have yet to realize support for full-scale alternatives. Trinity seeks to build the infrastructure to scale both restorative and transformative approaches that are rooted in communities, respond to violence, and deliver justice. Trinity supports the communities most affected by violence, incarceration, and trauma, following the wisdom of residents who are best positioned to identify what is needed for safety and justice.

Activities we will support will have the following goals:

  • Promote an affirmative vision for justice that decenters incarceration.
  • Build and strengthen the infrastructure to deliver restorative justice and transformative justice in New York City.
  • Secure public investment in promising, non-punitive, approaches to end the cycle of violence.

PREVENT: Trinity will help end unnecessary pretrial detention and racial disparities.

Successful organizing and advocacy have produced legislative victories that ended cash bail for most misdemeanors, reformed discovery practices, and ended the practice of charging 16-year-olds as adults. Building on this momentum, Trinity seeks to ensure equitable implementation of these laws while sustaining the advocacy and organizing infrastructure to continue reducing incarceration rates in New York. We also will disrupt racially unjust pipelines into the criminal legal system by continuing to support the scaling of school-based restorative justice efforts while exploring ways to uncouple the growing links between immigration and criminal legal systems, and the criminalization of immigrants.

Activities we will support will have the following goals:

  • Reducing the jail population in New York City.
  • Support grassroots organizing to push for an end to cash bail, shift policing practices and hold implementing agencies accountable for racially equitable outcomes.
  • Scale high-quality school-based restorative justice practices that reduce police enforcement in schools.
  • Support base building and advocacy that fights the criminalization of immigrants, ensures that immigrant New Yorkers have meaningful access to due process, and are protected from unnecessary detention and deportation.

LIBERATE: Trinity will help end homelessness for justice-involved New Yorkers.

Central to the efforts to end mass incarceration and homelessness is the liberation of people leaving jail and prison. However, after serving their time, returning citizens often encounter barriers to finding employment, obtaining education and training, and securing housing. Trinity seeks to leverage our combined expertise in both the racial justice and housing and homelessness systems to support the holistic needs of returning citizens and center their voices in the movement to end mass incarceration. We will have a deep focus on increasing housing options for New Yorkers who have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system.  

Activities we will support will have the following goals:

  • Expand supportive housing for justice-involved, complex-care homeless New Yorkers.
  • Develop other housing options and services for re-entering New Yorkers.
  • End the continuous punishment for poor people of color with criminal records related to housing, employment, and education.