The Morris Justice Project: Participatory Action Research


Designed as participatory action research, Morris Justice Project brought together a diverse group of community members (ages 16–80 years: elders, mothers, fathers, and youth) from a 42-block neighborhood in South Bronx, United States—a poor and working-class community of color with disproportionately high rates of police activity including frequent use of physical force—with City University of New York faculty, students, organizers, and Pace University lawyers. Deeply concerned about order-maintenance policing as practiced by the New York Police Department, we came together in solidarity to document and challenge the current zero-tolerance policies including the controversial tactic of ‘stop and frisk’ whereby extremely high numbers of innocent people are stopped. Meeting bi-weekly in the local library, our participatory action research collective developed a survey and distributed it to over 1,000 residents, conducted focus groups and interviews, and provided legal services. The collective analyzed the quantitative and qualitative data together using participatory analysis techniques. The findings were used toward a broad set of local and citywide actions. Using such tools as charts and maps, film, and community photo walls, the Morris Justice Project employed traditional, creative, and grassroots methods to engage ongoing community analysis of the data and facilitate public conversations about structural and legal inequalities.

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