On a February Saturday afternoon in Monterey, California when most people are usually at home relaxing a group of us from San Jose attended the Criminal Justice Information Networks Legislative Seminar.
As a facilitator for the Albert Cobarrubius Justice Project at Silicon Valley De-Bug and East Valley Pentecostal Church I was one of the people to be invited.
Our organization works closely with anybody who has had entanglements with the criminal justice system, whether it be for themselves or for a loved one. Most people who find themselves in the criminal justice system usually feel alone and lost. We serve as a backbone and a guide for people to find their way around.
Anybody who knows just a tad bit about the government knows that the cycle of legislation is where bills are passed, eventually turning into laws — and that includes laws that govern the criminal justice system. This seminar was for organizations like ours who work with our local community to learn more about the legislative process and how we can impact them.
Usually seminars are very quiet and with one person talking the whole way through. This time it was different. Surely there was a facilitator, but the people took more of an active roll than just the standard listener. It seemed that everyone was in a deep conversation, working together and taking ideas, resources and exchanging information.
Most of these organizations usually fight for change within their respective communities, looking from the bottom up. Taking on laws rolling down from Sacramento though can also have an impact.
The seminar was lead by Ignacio Hernandez, from the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ). Hernandez is the Founder of Hernandez Strategy Group, a lobbying firm who has advocated for or against nearly 800 bills with a focus in criminal justice policy as he is also a formal criminal defense attorney. He started with the ABC’s of politics. One did not have to know the first thing of legislation. Ignacio did a great job of explaining the cycle of legislation and how it eventually effects us on the ground level.
Strategies were introduced to the group of effective ways one could push for bills to be seen by the legislator and not be swept under the table like many are.
Every ones eyes lit up to see that we, cooperating as a group, could push for change from the top down. Eventually seeing change within the ground level. Our level.
Ignacio put out word that he is developing a website to where organizations could see bills that are going to be put forth in legislation so they could all work together to push for bills to be passed and turned into laws that will eventually benefit us all.
There is currently 32 different organizations that are going to be linked together through this new network. The more it grows, the more we on the ground level grow more powerful as tools for change in our respective communities.
Most of the attendees came as strangers to each other, but eventually left as colleagues, knowing that they are not alone in the battle that they are fighting.