Additional Suggestions

While this report attempted to distill the most potentially solvable concerns we heard into a series of recommendations, there were numerous other matters expressed by JustJax respondents we weren’t able to include.  In an effort to be transparent about all the issues raised during our conversations, we have enumerated other comments made by respondents below. 

  1. Under enrollment in the judicial district’s problem-solving courts:  JustJax respondents told us that many of Jacksonville’s problem-solving courts – Drug Court, Mental Health Court, and so on – were underutilized.  The efficacy of such courts is well documented nationally and the city should actively pursue their full utilization. In particular, we note the need for an independent Task Force or Steering Committee to oversee how these courts are working, including how defendants are selected for inclusion on these courts and how to increase utilization.
  2. Mentoring of at-risk youth:  Although numerous mentoring programs are available through the schools and other nonprofits, almost all our respondents who lived or grew up in the violence-affected neighborhoods mentioned the need for more mentors.  In particular, they noted the need for minority mentors with whom young men and women of color could more easily identify.
  3. Policy Center for Boys:  The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center for Girls has been extraordinarily successful in engaging both the community and the state in organizing and advocating for girls, especially those caught up within the juvenile justice system.  A similar policy center could advocate, develop programming and policies, and engage in data collection regarding boys impacted by the juvenile justice system.  Although there are numerous organizations engaging with boys, we see the need for a policy center that gives attention to how trauma, violence, and their environment affects their behavior and advocates for policies that can protect the rights of these children.
  4. Programs that create pride in physical environments:  We heard from many residents concerned with the lack of community that exists within Jacksonville’s violence-affected neighborhoods.  While we’ve tried to address a portion of that community disenfranchisement without our main report by calling for the revitalization of community centers, we believe other programs could aid in the effort.  In particular, many respondents mentioned the need for similar revitalization of their physical neighborhoods.  They mentioned blight, an inattention to infrastructural needs by the city regarding streets, sidewalks, and lighting, and even projects to reawaken communities with more visual changes that could be provided through repair of structures, paint, and trash clean up.
  5. Job Fairs, Career Building, and Entrepreneurial Skills Training: Many JustJax respondents noted the economic help that is needed in Jacksonville to ensure high school students a successful transition into their chosen careers.  This included a wide variety of needs that ranged from job placement for teens to information on how to write good resumes and conduct successful interviews.  In addition, we heard from respondents who believed similar help was needed by those re-entering the workforce after release from the criminal justice system.  And, finally, we heard from JustJax respondents specifically concerned with the difficulty experienced by minority business owners in dealing with bidding for governmental contracts and a request for more training to increase their bidding success.
  6. Development of Standard Quality Indicators: Many of our JustJax respondents spoke about unmet housing, community, and educational needs of residents in these violence-affected neighborhoods.  A potential solution to this was proposed by one respondent who said that the city or involved group of individuals (including those from the neighborhoods) could establish “quality indicators” as a framework to assess and benchmark the status of housing, social spaces such as neighborhood parks, neighborhood conditions (such as lighting and street maintenance). For example, indicators for housing might include working toilets and free wifi.  Once such indicators were created, the institutions on which they focused could be rated periodically to assess whether standards were being met.  To ensure compliance with the standards, public payments for things such as rent could be tied to obtaining a successful rating.  Public reports on compliance would ensure continuous improvement as well as community support for upgrades.
  7. The reinstitution of Judicial Inquests for police shootings: Many JustJax respondents indicated a need for some sort of independent law enforcement oversight, particularly in the event of police-related shootings.  So far, all efforts to institute oversight have failed. But this doesn’t mean that the concerns raised by citizens are invalid, or that the authority of law enforcement must be held beyond reproach. One way to handle that might involve the reinstitution of Judicial Inquests, in which a judge hears evidence in open court and determines whether a police officer was justified in using deadly force.  In Jacksonville, such inquests once were utilized to provide oversight but fell by the wayside in 1992. Reinstituting such public inquests would lend transparency to these investigations and help to restore the community’s trust in law enforcement.
  8. The establishment of a local Trauma Recovery Center: Such a facility would serve as an entity that could be accessed by anyone who had experienced trauma — from the moment of violence through the aftermath of violence.  It would also offer support for survivors and families, including those who’d lost a member to violence. There is the beginning of this sort of approach developing between UF Health trauma surgeons who respond to gunshot trauma and the CURE Violence initiative.  It should be supported and enhanced.
  9. The creation of a college education initiative:  The seed for an initiative that would provide free college education and potentially housing to qualified students at Jacksonville’s four universities was planted a decade ago but it has failed to sprout.   The program, called the “Jacksonville Commitment,” ran for two years then died.  That is a shame as studies show that the educational level of a community successfully lowers the crime rate.  It’s time the Jacksonville Commitment be revisited in an attempt to bring it back to life.  Perhaps a task force initiated by the community that included key stakeholders from the universities could be mounted to explore such an option.
  10. Independent monitoring of the foster care system in Duval County:  JustJax respondents stressed that the local foster care system needed more effective and continued monitoring by the community.  They suggested that there was not enough oversight of both the housing and the families used to care for foster children.  One suggestion could be to create “Indicators of Quality” that could be utilized periodically by a local independent monitor in Jacksonville similar to those discussed here in Item No. 6.  The fact that these children are wards of the state doesn’t negate the need for the community to ensure these children are cared for properly.  These are our kids too.
  11. The creation of parenting sessions:  JustJax respondents spoke to the need for additional help for parents, especially in the form of informational content that could help people with parenting difficulties.  Although there are already some help provided for parents through nonprofit efforts, it was suggested that a city-wide multi-day parenting conference be held annually for all of the city’s caretakers or that smaller regular parenting workshops be held within neighborhoods.
  12. The expansion of Jacksonville’s Keys to Drive program:  Currently Duval County’s Keys to Drive program works with people charged with infractions such as driving on a suspended license.  The program helps defendants pay their fees and regain a valid license.  The city could expand the program to people who don’t have a license but are not charged with a traffic crime.  Drivers’ licenses are essential to obtain and maintain employment in a city as large as Jacksonville.
  13. An exploration of ways to provide additional suitable housing:  We heard over and over about the problems associated with a lack of housing – inability to obtain work, inability to apply for programming, inability to obtain needed medications.  Housing is absolutely essential to improve conditions in Jacksonville.  We suggest the nonprofit community revisit the housing problem to explore new solutions for this problem as well as potential options for funding for these solutions.
  14. The formalization of Jacksonville as a “Child Friendly City”:   The United Nations (under UNICEF) designates cities around the world as child friendly when the government shows its commitment to improving the lives of children.  There are no cities designated as such within the United States although Jacksonville has made perhaps more strides in that direction than any other.  It would behoove the city to become the first in the country so designated.  Not only would it indicate the city’s focus on the rights and well-being of children, it would also go a long way in placing the city within an international network of resources and experts.