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Valley Justice Coalition Co-Hosts Community Criminal Justice Forum in Harrisonburg

Posted: Dec 01, 2018 10:29 PM Updated:
People in Valley Justice Coalition forum. People in Valley Justice Coalition forum.
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WVIR) -

The Valley Justice Coalition (VJC) hosted a forum on Saturday, Dec. 1 addressing criminalization across the Shenandoah Valley.

Partnering with Virginia Organizing, the VJC met in Harrisonburg to discuss community-police relations.

The forum focused on several issues including how police address immigration, homelessness, and mental health throughout the region, having modeled some of its efforts after the work being done in Charlottesville.

Daniel Barrows of the VJC says, “We really want to make sure we're hearing from all parts of our community about what's important to them, about what values and goals they'd like to see expressed in the criminal justice system.”

People living in and around the Shenandoah Valley say there's room for improvement when it comes to dealing with police.

Tashfia Hasan who lives in Harrisonburg says, “On a national level, I think there's been a lot of conversation about connection to the police departments in really any community, and for us I think it's just understanding how we best work with our police departments making sure that everyone is on the same page.”

Saturday’s forum in Harrisonburg gave community members a chance to brainstorm ideas and discuss ways to foster better relationships.

Judith Wright from Dayton stated, “I think if we get some public awareness and some public action, that a lot of improvements can be made.”

Organizers say they're taking community suggestions and looking to neighbors, like Charlottesville, as a model for collaboration.

“We've been looking to implement some of their evidence-based decision making and kind of the collaboration they've been able to share data between mental health systems, physical health systems and their criminal justice system.” stated Barrows.

The VJC plans to present a full report of all that happened at Saturday's forum to the Harrisonburg Police Department.

Organizers say that, going forward, they hope to be able to work with the department to facilitate positive change.