Perception controls opinion in our culture. If you control perception, you control the story, and if you control the story, you can influence the culture.
Indeed, within criminal justice reform, a dangerous narrative about how to address and talk about violence in the U.S. has formed, leading to damaging and unhelpful treatment of accused or convicted people in this country.
To challenge these narratives, Common Justice partnered with The Opportunity Agenda to create a new narrative memo called “Building a Narrative to Address Violence in the U.S.”
Within this work is advice for engaging strategic audiences around addressing violence, suggestions on how to help shape a larger story, around violence, its causes, and the people involved, and support on how to change hearts, minds, and policies around the issue.
The memo recommends a narrative rooted in three pillars:
- Preventing harm
- Upholding the values of accountability, equal justice and pragmatism and
- Promoting rehabilitation, restoration, and repair.
It also recommends developing a core narrative that should lead with values, highlight the systemic obstacles to those values that communities face, and promote effective solutions, successes and alternatives.
Sample messaging is also included to provide more concrete examples across the spectrum of those engaged in criminal justice reform.
In this age when unhelpful narratives around violence have influenced public opinion around immigration, the criminal justice system and economic opportunity, the need to reshape these narratives is vitally important.
These ideas are meant to serve as a jumping off point for more specific messages. The idea behind relying on common, or “big ideas” in talking about violence issues is to develop a familiar, pro-reform story that moves our target audiences.
In this age when unhelpful narratives around violence have influenced public opinion around immigration, the criminal justice system and economic opportunity, the need to reshape these narratives is vitally important. This memo provides tools to shift these narratives in a more helpful direction.
Large-scale criminal justice reform will not be possible without tackling the issue of violence, especially since half the people in state prisons in the United States are in for crimes of violence. For people who are already invested in addressing violence, our memo provides tools to discuss violence in a new way. This memo can help partners see how discussing violence can be an asset to moving hearts, minds and policy, and stands as an invitation to explore how we use the discussion of violence as both fuel for our work and to strengthen our partnerships with each other. Because we can control the perception.
Aseante Renee is the Director of Communications for Common Justice. She uses her communications expertise to create opportunities for sustainable progress.