Model & Strategy

The Detroit Justice Center (DJC) works alongside communities to create economic opportunities, transform the justice system, and promote equitable and just cities. DJC recognizes that we cannot build cities that work for everyone without remedying the impacts of mass incarceration. DJC uses a three-pronged community lawyering approach—combining “defense, offense, and dreaming”—to serve individual clients, build economic power, and catalyze systemic solutions.

DJC’s Legal Services attorneys help clients remain out of prison, hold onto jobs and stable housing, and keep their families intact. DJC’s Economic Equity attorneys provide legal support for community land trusts, housing and worker cooperatives, community benefits agreements, and enterprises led by returning citizens. DJC’s Just Cities Lab promotes restorative justice, divestment from jails and prisons, and reinvestment in community safety and well-being. The Lab is piloting Just City solutions that will ripple far beyond Detroit.

Detroit Justice Center logo
At a Glance
Founded: 2018
Founder & Executive Director: Amanda Alexander
Social Justice
Location of work: Domestic
Detroit Justice Center
1420 Washington Blvd
Suite 301
Detroit, MI 48226
Working alongside communities to create economic opportunities, transform the justice system, and promote equitable and just cities.
Amanda Alexander headshot
Meet Amanda Alexander

Amanda Alexander, founding Executive Director of the Detroit Justice Center, is a racial justice lawyer who works alongside community-based movements to end mass incarceration and build thriving and inclusive cities. Originally from Michigan, Amanda has worked at the intersection of racial justice and community development in Detroit, New York, and South Africa for more than 15 years. As a 2013-2015 Soros Justice Fellow, Amanda launched the Prison & Family Justice Project at University of Michigan Law School to provide legal representation to incarcerated parents and advocate for families divided by the prison and foster care systems.

Amanda is a Senior Research Scholar at University of Michigan Law School and a 2015-2018 member of the Michigan Society of Fellows. She facilitated the Inside-Out Theory Group at Macomb Prison near Detroit for many years and drove a successful effort to establish an Inside-Out Prison Exchange program at UM-Ann Arbor and local prisons. Amanda regularly provides assistance and training to community organizations, advocates, and government agencies working to promote successful re-entry, alternatives to incarceration, and economic equity. She is an adviser to the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated, has served on the national steering committee of Law for Black Lives, and is a board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership.

Amanda holds a JD from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in international history from Columbia University. Previously she has worked with the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, the Bronx Defenders, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the Centre for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa. As an Ella Baker Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, she assisted with litigation challenging stop-and-frisk policing. As a Fulbright-Hays Scholar, Amanda conducted research on land, housing, and inclusive cities in South Africa. Her advocacy and research have won the support of an Echoing Green Fellowship, Social Science Research Council Fellowship, Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellowship, and other fellowships and grants. Her writing has been published in The Globe & MailMichigan Journal of Race & LawHarvard Journal of African-American Public PolicyMichigan Child Welfare Law JournalJournal of Asian and African StudiesReview of African Political Economy, and other publications.

Impact

In just over six months of operation, DJC has received a grant to work with 100 near-release individuals in four prisons in south-eastern Michigan to prepare them for a successful return, in addition to providing bail, in partnership with The Bail Project, for 50 individuals (18 of whom later had their cases closed).

In its first months, DJC’s Economic Equity Practice has helped to create or sustain 3 small businesses run by people impacted by incarceration, produced 4 units of affordable housing, and helped clients acquire 3 lots of land.

In fall 2018, the Just Cities Lab hosted a Restorative Justice Youth Design Summit where Detroit teens created powerful solutions for what could be built instead of a new jail to help neighborhoods thrive.

DJC launched Detroit’s first bail fund in partnership with The Bail Project. Over 72 clients were bailed out in its first six months.

  • RT @kalteneder: Essential learning from @justcitydetroit at @NLADA #NLADA19 if we, as lawyers, are going to be allies in advancing justice.…
  • “What if that amount were invested in different communities?...What if we made a commensurate investment in restori… https://t.co/v7f503RGn7
  • RT @safeandjustmi: In August, @justcitydetroit led a 2-day workshop for ppl with a criminal record. Participants created posters advocating…
  • If you're wondering who will benefit from expanded #CleanSlate legislation in Michigan, please watch this video fro… https://t.co/7SPEOZkkEr
  • RT @BrendonWoodsPD: I learned today that driving on a suspended license in Detroit is a non-expungable misdemeanor. These types of laws are…
  • Read our Joint Statement with @JustLeadersUSA on the expungement bill package: https://t.co/OjNDXgwbmL
  • RT @NoKidsInPrison: “While courts have ruled that our young people have no fundamental right to literacy and our schools are scraping by, w…
  • RT @designcoredet: .@justcitydetroit is creating many new approaches for mass incarceration, including housing initiatives to help with phy…
  • RT @olgasstella: Lauren Broussard @justcitydetroit speaks to how partner Dlive has worked with victims of gun violence to understand and ad…
  • RT @olgasstella: Lauren Broussard @justcitydetroit talks asks the #Include2019 audience what would they do with $500M to create a just city…
  • Want to learn more about displacement in Detroit and how to combat it? Join our Community Legal Worker Sonja Bonnet… https://t.co/y6rgJPr3QZ
  • RT @amberakemipiatt: "The tax dollars we invest in cells and prison guards can buy us punishment, but they cannot buy us safety." 💯 Powerf…
  • Have you seen this lovely profile of our friends at Healing By Choice? Learn more about the work they do here: https://t.co/yJyLlcrw4Z
  • RT @EJUSA: @justcitydetroit is re-imagining safe communities where each individual’s needs are met. The most important component of this ho…
  • RT @tbh4justice: If you want to read more about longstanding invest-divest strategies in the fight to transform the criminal legal system,…
  • RT @avitale: Check out the amazing work @A_S_Alexander is doing at @justcitydetroit. This is how we produce public safety. https://t.co/egK…
  • This Saturday, join our brilliant Community Legal Worker Sonja Bonnett for a discussion of dispossession and how to… https://t.co/k0Exmqixl6
  • RT @AngieJackson23: Detroit’s new Fair Chance Housing ordinance prohibits most landlords from asking about criminal records on rental appli…
  • 2L's! Today is the deadline for you to apply to our joint #MovementLawyering internship with @AmistadLawhttps://t.co/uo96PDwTRS
  • Amazing work @RaiseTheAgeMI ! Your persistence in this work will make a big difference for young people in Michigan. https://t.co/hLo87kDVC4