The Detroit Justice Center works alongside communities to create economic opportunities, transform the justice system, and promote equitable and just cities.
DJC is founded on the belief that we cannot build cities that work for everyone without remedying the impacts of mass incarceration. This mission requires innovative ways of community lawyering—rooted in defensive and offensive fights for racial justice and economic equity—that build up our poorest residents through direct services and novel approaches to land use, housing, and employment.
We use a three-pronged approach to serve individual clients, build power, and catalyze systemic solutions:
legal services practice
Many Detroiters—and, by extension, their families—are shut out of the formal economy because of a criminal record, suspended driver’s license, outstanding warrant, or crushing criminal justice debt. Our Legal Services Practice removes these types of legal barriers—helping clients remain out of jail, hold onto jobs and stable housing, and keep their families intact.
economic equity practice
Against enormous odds, longtime Detroit residents have forged a new path for what post-industrial cities can be. In the face of a devastated economy, Detroiters have kept small businesses going, established urban farms and nurtured local food systems, created alternative sharing economies, and curated community spaces rooted in arts and culture. Our Economic Equity Practice works closely with our community partners to strengthen these solutions, providing legal support for community land trusts, housing and worker cooperatives, and enterprises led by returning citizens.
just city innovation lab
Nationally, we suffer from a lack of strategic vision about how to divest from jails and prisons and reinvest in the health and safety of our communities. Our Just City Innovation Lab focuses on introducing and normalizing alternatives to punitive justice. We convene change-makers from Detroit and elsewhere who are, for example, experimenting with restorative justice approaches to architecture and urban planning, ‘flipping’ prisons into community support centers, and implementing justice reinvestment solutions through policy change. We incubate and amplify Just City solutions that will ripple far beyond Detroit.