January 8, 2024
For Katal, entering 2024 feels a bit like being shot out of a cannon. The challenges ahead are daunting. The world is going through convulsions. And for many people in the United States, the upcoming national elections are a source of increasing anxiety.
Even as we remain focused on the local organizing work in Connecticut and New York, our training program is national in scope – so we hear about the struggles folks are confronting in their cities and towns across the country. And it all sounds relatively familiar. We know there are big fights to come in the year ahead.
Thanks to your support, we made tremendous progress over the last year and are starting the new year on strong footing. Here’s a quick recap of our work in 2023:
- We expanded our BLOC training program. Building Leadership and Organizing Capacity (BLOC) is our mainstay training program. Through BLOC, participants learn to use community organizing tools, strategies, and more. Last year, we trained hundreds of people in Connecticut, New York, and beyond. We’re excited for what’s ahead in 2024.
- In Connecticut, we won the fight to close another adult prison and we fought against the reopening of a prison for children – the Connecticut Juvenile Training School. The state is searching for ways to reopen the facility, so we’re continuing the work to keep it closed.
- We released a groundbreaking report with our partners at the Prison Policy Initiative: Excessive, Unjust, and Expensive: Fixing Connecticut’s Probation and Parole Problems. The report highlights the massive overuse of community corrections in Connecticut and how these systems have become a trap door to incarceration, especially for Black, Latine, and low-income communities. Multiple news outlets – including CT Insider, WSHU Public Radio, and CT News Junkie – reported on our findings.
- We launched a new project in Connecticut: Cultivating Justice. In early 2022, after learning about generations of farming in his family, our cofounder and co–executive director Lorenzo Jones researched how to start a farm and began raising chickens in his backyard. Then in June 2022, a Connecticut Public Radio story highlighted that 98 percent of all registered farmers statewide are white. This wasn’t surprising, given how Black and Latine folks in Connecticut have been historically marginalized by systemic racism. We know from our organizing that problems such as environmental racism and food insecurity intersect with mass criminalization and incarceration. As a natural step in our organizing, we formed a partnership with Wesleyan University’s Jewett Center for Community Partnerships – and Cultivating Justice was born. The project continues to grow, involving Black, Latine, and low-income communities – those most impacted by mass criminalization in Connecticut – in chicken keeping, composting, growing crops, cultivating hemp, land management, and beekeeping, while providing training in civic engagement and community organizing. Cultivating Justice came into its own in 2023 and we’re excited about what’s to come!
- In New York, we fought to limit pretrial detention and to reinvest savings from parole reforms. In 2023, we stood against efforts to roll back bail reform further, organizing actions in New York City and joining actions and lobby days in Albany. We continued to monitor the implementation of the #LessIsMoreNY parole reform bill and worked with our partners to organize a series of town halls across the state to hear how New Yorkers want to reinvest the savings realized through reform. Those town halls informed this recent report about how to do just that.
- We grew our campaign to #ShutRikers. We organized to demand that Mayor Eric Adams shut down Rikers. We held rallies and protests and testified multiple times before the New York City Council and the state legislature in Albany. We confronted the mayor on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn. We continued to organize for federal intervention: until Rikers is shut down, we are calling for the federal courts to appoint an independent receiver. We worked with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to introduce a resolution calling for a receiver to take over city jails and we secured nearly 20 cosponsors. Today more than 50 groups and elected officials have joined the call for a federal receiver. We’re building power and momentum.
- In New York City, our organizing team hit more than 120,000 doors. We expanded our outreach to build a larger base of people. In 2023, under the direction of our lead organizer, Melanie Dominguez, our team distributed campaign materials and knocked on more than 120,000 doors across all five boroughs. This led to thousands of conversations with New Yorkers about cutting the jail population, shutting down Rikers, and investing in real community safety – housing, health care, education, jobs. We’re going even harder in 2024 and look forward to sharing more with you about our progress!
- We mobilized thousands of people to take action together. In Connecticut and New York, we activated thousands of people throughout the year who joined us in the streets or online, through dozens of protests, rallies, lobby days, phone-banking sessions, and other activities. And we continued our popular monthly criminal justice reform calls in both states. Check out some of the year’s photos in our Facebook albums.
- We were all over the news and spoke at numerous events. Katal was cited in dozens and dozens of news stories. We appeared on radio, podcasts, and television. We published op-eds about our work in both Connecticut and New York and hosted numerous events. We spoke at conferences, town halls, and other events. We shaped the debates about our issues.
And we got even more done, accomplishments we tracked through the year in our regular email updates. We made real, concrete changes in the lives of people in Connecticut, New York, and beyond. It’s not rhetoric when we say that we truly couldn’t do all this without you.
Thank you again for your invaluable support. Let’s go onward, together, into this new year.
Lorenzo Jones and gabriel sayegh