Areas of Focus

Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice (IPSSJ)

Meeting public safety challenges
with socially just solutions.

Areas of Focus

Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice seeks to create momentum for modern, effective solutions that transform and improve current public safety methodology. Our areas of focus are:

  • Addressing Trauma
  • Decriminalization of Communities
  • Building Community Capacity

Addressing Trauma

To build public safety systems that heal and address trauma rather than recreate it.

Safety is ultimately about relationships. It is about the ways we treat ourselves, each other, and the communities we encounter. Yet this basic truth is often not honored through our public safety laws, policies, or practices. Typically, public safety professionals are trained to isolate and confine, no matter what the scenario is or what a situation may require. Many have little to no preparation in improving the quality of relationships in the neighborhoods, towns, or cities where they work.

While confinement may sometimes be necessary, it is only one of many possible options. At IPSSJ we help train public safety professionals – from police officers, to school security guards, to judges – in a broad array of strategies for handling conflict and preventing harm. These strategies draw from the fields of trauma-informed care, community justice, restorative justice, urban planning and community mental health.

Current projects:

We are currently involved in local and state-wide trauma-focused collaborative coalitions and efforts relating to education and policy. We also conduct presentations educating the public on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on physical and mental health throughout the lifespan.

On an organizational level, we conduct trainings and workshops to assist them to become trauma-informed. IPSSJ is working on an ambitious project to create a “Trauma Informed City” in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  The city has invested to train their school districts, their hospital system, and the public health system.  Additionally, the YMCA Youth Safety and Violence Prevention office in Chicago, several Chicago Public Schools, and other agencies have sought this training locally. 

Decriminalization of Communities

To support a cultural shift away from punishment and towards real accountability.

Prisons are only “correctional” in name. Recidivism in American prisons is generally over 50%. This indicates that strictly punitive approaches have limited power to alter human behavior. Instead, the IPSSJ proposes transformative solutions to public safety challenges, where taxpayer dollars are used to create true accountability and healing, actively supporting human potential, rather than just multiplying the harm in any situation.

Bringing this objective to life requires expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration and strengthening the human development capacities of communities. When these goals are pursued in ways that enhance local social networks, then public safety systems can begin to rebuild the ‘collective efficacy’ that recent sociological studies have shown to be foundational to neighborhood safety.

Current projects:

Throughout the year, we organize and participate in events which illustrate alternatives to incarceration and detention. Recently, Dr. Quintana provided her expertise to the Illinois governor’s commission on inmate reform. For more information on upcoming events, join our mailing list.

Building Community Capacity

To help organizations plan safety strategies that promote functionality and wellness.

Neighborhood organizations play a vital role in supporting, empowering and educating community residents. IPSSJ helps organizations to strengthen their public safety programming, assisting with their strategic planning and evaluation. We focus on partnerships with innovative organizations that have a demonstrated commitment to partnering with the families and leaders in the areas where they work.

Current projects:

Community Restorative Justice Hubs

We collaborate with six neighborhood organizations, and a number of other thought partners, to offer trauma-informed alternatives to detention for youth and emerging adults in some of the most criminalized communities in Chicago. These organizations are:

IPSSJ serves as the evaluator and data coordinator for the Community Restorative Justice Hubs and provides training and technical assistance to the collective. Additionally, IPSSJ coordinates a “Learning Academy” where hub members educate other hubs on their areas of expertise. Click here to learn more about the Community Restorative Justice Hub network, and find out about upcoming information sessions for those organizations interested in becoming a hub.

Community Anti-Violence Education Project (CAVE)

This initiative was spawned through work with the Education Justice Project of the University of Illinois. Through this effort, Dr. Quintana works in collaboration with inmates as co-faciliators inside Danville Correctional Center.  IPSSJ was instrumental in creating a program in Chicago, held weekly in two Adult Transition Centers. CAVE allows participants to address trauma as a main trigger before engaging in violence.  Inmates and former inmates teach current inmates about brain science & emotional management in order to recognize and redirect trauma triggers. 

Social Justice Simulations

Two experiences have been developed to help people understand the experiences of marginalization: one emphasizes the barriers and challenges faced by people reentering society after incarceration and the other is an exploration of income inequality. Both allow groups of up to 25 individuals take part in a 3-hour experience that promotes discussion and a need for solutions to two major crises of our time. These simulations can be provided to interested organizations for a fee. Please contact us for more information and pricing.