Liah Burnley – Policy Advocate, Californians for Safety and Justice









Informing Criminal Justice Reform Policies by Engaging with Crime Survivors and the Formerly Incarcerated

I recently spoke with Liah Burnley, who is a Policy Advocate for Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ), about the history of and work that CSJ does. CSJ works on criminal justice reform issues, with a particular focus on reducing wasteful spending in California’s justice system and breaking the cycle of crime by promoting policies and spending that help create safe communities and safe neighborhoods.

But what I found particularly interesting in our conversation was how CSJ informs itself before making decisions on various policies. There are two main groups that CSJ works with to get this information, crime survivors and the formerly incarcerated. It should be pointed out that – at least according to CSJ – a crime survivor is not the same as a crime victim. Crime survivors are those who are impacted by crime. Does that include victims of crime? Absolutely. But survivors also include the family and neighbors of those victims. If you think of water dropping, the crime is the drop and all the ripples that come from that drop are the impacted survivors.

The sense that I had after talking with Liah is that this second group, the formerly incarcerated, are really at the core of what CSJ works on. CSJ got started, and made a name for itself, by working on Prop 47 implementation. In doing so, they learned about multiple other inefficiencies in California’s criminal justice system and expanded their work accordingly so that, as Liah put it, when people are out there trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps that “those bootstraps are actually there.”

There was one other thing that Liah shared with me that stuck. It’s something that she lives by and seems to encapsulate the criminal justice reform movement, “each of us is worth more than the worst thing that we’ve ever done.” I think that in the majority of cases, that mantra holds true.

If you want to learn more about Californians for Safety and Justice, feel free to check out their website You can also Like Californians for Safety and Justice on Facebook follow them on Twitter @safeandjust.