Safe and just communities are about more than policing. Especially in neighborhoods with high rates of crime and law enforcement engagement, residents also often face chronic insecurity in housing, health, education, transportation, and employment. Therefore, any evaluation of safety and justice in our community requires a broader review of the environment in which crime and criminal justice involvement occurs and should also include the lived experiences and knowledge of community members whose voices are often left out of policymaking and investment decisions.

Grand Rapids now has an opportunity to bring together government partners and community members to create a shared vision for safety and justice that is more holistic, equity-centered, and data-driven. The newly formed Grand Rapids Justice and Governance Partnership (GR-JGP) has been awarded a $150,000 planning grant by the Aspen Institute’s Criminal Justice Reform Initiative to participate in its Justice and Governance Partnership (JGP) program.

The JGP works nationally alongside jurisdictions to promote ecosystemic approaches to improving justice and safety for residents through four key components:

Justice Collaborative

Diverse range of stakeholders, reflecting interests across the wider justice ecosystem

Justice Audit

Consolidated data analysis of the local justice ecosystem that is repeatable and community-informed

Justice Reinvestment Plans

Collaborative policy-making plan for implementing findings of Justice Audits

Justice Intermediary

Convenes the Justice Collaborative and produces Justice Audits and Reinvestment Plans

Planning Phase

During the planning phase from March-December 2022, the GR-JGP will collaborate with community stakeholders to develop the four core JGP components and a plan for implementation. A holistic Justice Audit will be designed that collects and visualizes data not only from law enforcement and courts but also from a wide range of sources that interact with those systems such as housing, healthcare, education, workforce development, and others. Workgroups comprised of local cross-sector representatives will determine the information to include and track, with the goal of building a comprehensive picture of how public safety and the justice system are experienced neighborhood by neighborhood. At the end of the planning phase, Grand Rapids will have access to multi-year funding and technical support to implement initial and recurring Justice Audits and to develop Reinvestment Plans that identify where interventions are most needed to inform policies and coordinate resources across sectors.

Key GR-JGP Planning Phase Activities:

March – May 2022

Convene a Planning Workgroup to build a shared understanding of the JGP components and develop goals and the activities needed to achieve those outcomes

June – August 2022

Engage a broader stakeholder group to define Justice Audit elements

September – November 2022

Develop governance structure of future Justice Collaborative and secure data sharing agreements from agencies and organizations for future Justice Audit

Select a Justice Intermediary to lead future JGP activities with the Justice Collaborative

December 2022

Submit proposal for funding to support implementation of Justice Audit and ongoing JGP activities

Who's Involved

Public Agency at WMCAT, a social enterprise of the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology, is serving as the host organization for the planning phase and will organize GR-JGP activities with community stakeholders. With technical assistance from Aspen Institute and its partners, an initial planning workgroup was formed to initiate the work.

Organizations engaged thus far include:

61st District Court


Bank of America

Baxter Neighborhood Association

Catherine’s Health Center

Cherry Health

City of Grand Rapids

Coalition to End Homelessness

Dwelling Place

Essential Needs Task Force

Family Promise

Grand Rapids Bar Association

Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

Grand Rapids Police Department

Grand Rapids Public Schools

Grand Rapids Urban League

Greater Grand Rapids NAACP

Johnson Center at GVSU

Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation

Kent Co. Board of Commissioners

Kent Co. Health Department

Kent Co. Michigan DHHS

Kent Co. Office of Community Corrections

Kent Co. Prosecutor’s Office

Kent Co. Sheriff’s Office

Kent School Services Network (KSSN)


Michigan House of Representatives

Network 180

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

Spectrum Health

Urban Core Collective


Women’s Resource Center

YWCA West Central Michigan

Aspen Institute is funding the engagement of the GR-JGP with initial support from The Michigan Justice Fund at The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Bank of America, Arnold Ventures, Ford Foundation, Ballmer Group, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Slack, Inc.

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