Justice Matters formally launched at their covenant assembly on November 10, 2014. Justice Matters is an Interfaith organization made up of nineteen religious congregations in Lawrence, Kansas. We have come together to move toward a city where justice rolls down like a mighty river. We work toward this vision as an expression of our faith and values of love, relationship, and justice. We lift up these “neighborly” values in contrast to a culture dominated by the pursuit of material consumption and individualism.
The way we work can be described in five steps: (1) collectively listening to the concerns and vision for our city among its many residents, (2) voting to select priorities, (3) researching the underlying problems we face and solutions that work, (4) creating the public will to improve our city at system-wide levels through the power of organized people, and (5) monitoring results to ensure the improvements are realized.
Introduction to Justice Matters – https://vimeo.com/108266945
Diversion in Lawrence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B35iVCFGvGA&feature=youtu.be
Mental Health & Jails – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu0brgVdw3g
Affordable Housing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcXaEWsyPfs&feature=youtu.be
In its first year of operation, Justice Matters has achieved:
- Police Training for the Entire Force – Justice Matters sped up time table and increased expectations for police training to handle encounters with people suffering from mental illness to include having every officer trained within 30 months. In most other cities, police departments do not get this serious until after someone with mental illness is tragically killed by a police officer and a lawsuit ensues. This training known as Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) will also give officers the understanding necessary to know when to divert the right people away from jail toward treatment alternatives. See article here.
- Mental Health Consortium – Justice Matters has drawn together top leaders in city to create a Mental Health Consortium. The Consortium is charged to review the mental health system in Lawrence and develop a plan for system-wide improvements by August, 2016. Members include: the Lawrence City Vice-Mayor, Executive Director of the Community Mental Health Center, Lawrence Police Chief, Executive Director of the Hospital CEO, Douglas County Commissioner, and three representatives of Justice Matters.
- San Antonio Delegation – Justice Matters organized a delegation of key officials involved in a discussion to expand the Douglas County Jail to travel to San Antonio to see in person, an alternative system that keeps people with mental illness out of jail and places them on a path toward recovery, while also saving tax payer money. Delegates included: City Mayor, Two County Commissioners and the County Administrator, the District Attorney, Hospital CEO Gene Meyer and Emergency Room Doctor, and Municipal Court Judge. See article here.
- Affordable Housing Demonstration Project – Justice Matters was able to secure $108,000 in funds entrusted to an Advisory Board of housing groups, city and county officials, and home builders to demonstrate how an affordable housing trustfund can systematically provide safe, decent homes for women fleeing domestic violence, children aging out of foster care, people in recovery, etc. The project is expected to build homes that demonstrate innovation, good stewardship, the ability to leverage other funding, and service collaboration.
The results above are in large part due to the public will created at our first Nehemiah Action Assembly, where 1,726 people were in attendance (see article here), and the broad engagement developed through 108 small group discussions that took place in people’s homes across the city in October 2014 (see article here.)
Presently, 19 congregations are members of Justice Matters, representing 10,000 people of faith. We represent a diverse mix of black, white, and Hispanic persons, coming from different religious traditions, including Catholic, mainline Protestant, nondenominational Christian, and Jewish.
- Co-President – Rev. John McDermott, Morning Star Church
- Co-President – Fr. Mike Scully, St John’s Catholic Church
- Co-Vice-President – Rev. Verdell Taylor, St Luke AME
- Co-Vice-President – Rev. Kathy Williams, First UMC
- Treasurer – Rev. Randy Weinkauf, Immanuel Lutheran Church
- Recording Secretary – Rev. Justin Jenkins, Velocity Church
- Corresponding Secretary – Rev. Mary Newberg-Gale, First Presbyterian Church
PO Box 442221
Lawrence, KS 66044
Tel. (785) 218-0941