Broward Organized Leaders Doing Justice
Broward Organized Leaders Doing Justice (BOLD Justice) is an organization of religious congregations throughout Broward County which are working together to solve critical community problems. We are not a service provider, but a grassroots, direct action, multi-issued organization, which has come to be a powerful force for improving the quality of life in our community.
Seniors in Nursing Homes BOLD Justice began hearing stories of neglect and abuse of seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in 2015. We begin to conduct research and discovered Broward has 35 Nursing homes with 4,569 beds. 821 of those beds are on the State’s Watch List. The Watch List identifies Nursing Homes that are operating under bankruptcy protection or did not meet or correct minimum criteria during an inspection.
Our leaders had been researching this issue and working on a solution for more than two years when hurricane Irma hit. On Sept. 13, 3 days after Hurricane Irma passed through South Florida, a tragedy started to unfold at the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills, which has claimed 14 lives. The events at Hollywood Hills are not isolated. We had been hearing stories like this all over the county for several years.
In 2018, we finally had a break through. BOLD Justice leaders got a commitment from the State Attorney’s office to form a multi-agency unit to conduct unannounced inspections of nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout all of Broward County at least once a month. That unit includes the State Attorney’s office, law enforcement, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Office of the Attorney General, the zoning board, and the Department of Children and Families. Inspections began in May of 2018 and are ongoing. These inspections will help insure that facilities are safe for our loved ones to live in.
Additionally BOLD Justice is working to get a model nursing home called a Green House built within Broward County.
Reducing Youth Arrests Florida arrests more youth under the age of 18 than almost any other state. Many of those youth are arrested for minor offenses (throwing an orange on a bus, steeling a candy bar, etc). These arrests follow them for life locking them out of jobs, the military, and sometimes even college scholarships. The state has a program called civil citation, which allows law enforcement the ability to divert first time youth who commit a minor offense out of the criminal justice system and into community service programs without receiving an arrest record. In 2015 BOLD Justice worked with 9 other DART organizations across the state of Florida to pass SB378. SB378 expands the state’s civil citation program. Previously youth could only receive one civil citation, now they can receive up to three. Since starting this work Broward County have increased from 57% of eligible youth to 71% of eligible youth receiving a civil citation. This work continued into 2018 when our organizations passed another state wide bill. This bill accomplished several things: (1) Requires every FL Circuit to provide a juvenile civil citation diversion program, (2) Requires waiver of $75 fee to expunge juvenile arrest, (3) If a juvenile is sent to diversion POST ARREST—it holds the record in a “prevention web” –where it stays if the juvenile completes the program, (4) Requires record of arrests, charges and reasons for arrest when eligible for civil citation, and (5) Encourages civil citation programs for adults.
Mental Health One out of four people suffer from mental illness in the United States. Florida is last in the nation for spending money on mental illness. Oftentimes a person’s first mental health diagnosis is a result of police contact. Approximately 1 in 10 police contacts are with some one who is mentally ill. In Broward County 1/3 of the people in the jail suffer from mental illness (1,500 people out of 4,500) and It costs $130 per day to keep some one with a mental illness in jail. Since 2003 the jail population in Broward County has declined by 12%, but the number of people with mental illness in jail has nearly doubled. Jail is not the best place to be treating people with mental illness. It is not designed for that purpose, it is expensive, inefficient, and ineffective.
The solution is to intervene early. When police first make contact with some one who is mentally ill they have the opportunity to direct them towards mental health services rather than simply arresting them. But to do that they need to be properly trained. Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training is a best practice across the country. CIT is a 40 hour training that officers go through that provide them with the skills they need when dealing with an individual suffering from a mental illness. In Memphis where this started arrest of mentally ill individuals were reduced from 20 arrests per 100 calls to only 2 arrest per 100 calls. Since implementation the number mentally ill people in jail in Memphis has dropped from 15% to 3%.
BOLD Justice got a commitment from the Broward Sheriff to have all 2,800 of his officers trained in CIT by 2020. He has agreed to place $100,000 in the budget annually to expand the training to make this commitment a reality.
Unemployment In 2014, after two and a half years of pushing from BOLD Justice, the Broward County Commission passed the Workforce Investment Act, which stipulates that any company receiving a county contract worth more than $500,000 must give preference during their hiring process to Broward County residents and ‘hard to hire’ candidates. It is estimated that this law will impact approximately 45 contracts worth $290 million in just its first year.
In 2009 BOLD Justice got a commitment from a representative of the local Work Force One board to implement a service to get training for Work Force One employees to correct flags in the unemployment database – streamlining the unemployment process. Employees received this training in May 2009 and serve approximately 900 people a week.
Reading In 2012, BOLD Justice got a commitment from the Superintendent to pilot Direct Instruction in underperforming schools in Broward County. It was launched at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in January 2013 and at Dillard Elementary School in August 2013, and will serve approximately 500 students between these two schools. Direct Instruction is a research-based reading curriculum that has been shown to raise the literacy rates of low-performing students.
Drug Courts In 2011 BOLD Justice worked with five other DART affiliates to pass SB400. SB400 changed several “red tape” problems with admitting non-violent drug offenders into Drug Courts in Florida. As a result of the work of these DART affiliates (including BOLD Justice), Governor Scott signed this bill into law on May 5th, 2011. Over a two year period of time, as a result of the changes this bill implemented, drug court was able to serve 2,000 people and save the state of Florida over $95 million.
Affordable Housing Over a three year period of time, culminating in 2011, BOLD Justice worked on Affordable Rental Housing. Broward County is 6th in the nation for households paying more than half of their income for housing. We have 42,000 households that report paying more than half of their income for rent. BOLD Justice was able to get the County Administrator to prioritize rental housing, place funding for gap financing so that developers could build affordable housing, and secure additional revenue to build affordable rental housing. As a result, 2,322 new affordable rental projects have been funded across Broward County and all of these are currently open. Two of the projects that are open can be found at 7481 NW 33rd St, in Davie and the corner of NW 8th St and NW 10th Terr in Ft. Lauderdale. The remaining projects stretch over the entire county.
In 2010, the Broward County Administrator committed to invite a non-profit organization with a track record for successfully modifying home mortgages in danger of foreclosure to South Florida to hold an on the spot mortgage modification event. The event was held in August of 2010. 3,544 families received on the spot mortgage modifications allowing them to stay in their homes.
Crime Also in 2010, BOLD Justice identified 44 high crime areas (“Hot Spots”) near our congregations. The majority of these hot spots were in Ft. Lauderdale near the Sistrunk neighborhood. BOLD Justice was able to get the Chief of Police for Ft. Lauderdale to commit to increase police protection in these areas resulting in 40 arrests.
Read more about BOLD Justice in the news.
Presently, 21 congregations and groups with over 30,000 members are members of BOLD Justice. We come from all parts of Broward County, and we represent a diverse mix of African American, Anglo, Hispanic, Haitian, and Islander persons, coming from different religious traditions, including Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, United Methodist, AME, Seventh Day Adventist, Unitarian Universalist and Presbyterian.
- Co-President – Rev. Andrea Byer-Thomas, Village United Methodist Church, North Lauderdale
- Co-President – Janean Baumal, Trinity Lutheran Church, Pembroke Pines
- Vice-President – Rev. Bancroft Williams, Merrell United Methodist Church, Lauderdale Lakes
- Treasurer – Rev. Kennedy McGowan, First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, Hollywood
- Secretary – Mary Ellen Fowler, Little Flower Catholic Church, Hollywood
- At-Large – Rev. Michael Anderson, New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Hollywood
- At-Large – Roland Abel, Miramar United Methodist Church, Miramar
- At-Large – Marta Villacorte, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Weston
- At-Large – Jose Iraheta, St. Stephen Catholic Church, Miramar
- At-Large – Carrie Roach, St. Bonaventure Catholic Church, Davie
441 NE 3rd Ave
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301