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Bending Light toward Justice

Backs of inmates sitting in LA County jail.
The Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA is shining light on the need for equality.

Stars are aligning for UCLA’s efforts in criminal justice reform, thanks to the forces of academia, community, and philanthropy.

Million Dollar Questions

The Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, led by interim director Kelly Lytle-Hernández, is now home to the community-driven research project Million Dollar Hoods. The project maps neighborhood incarceration costs in Los Angeles — home to the largest jail system in the world — to illuminate disparities and opportunities for fairer enforcement.

Established with foundation and university funds, Million Dollar Hoods received a recent grant from The California Endowment. The money will support analyzing law enforcement agency data based on the priorities of partners, such as the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Dignity and Power Now, and Youth Justice Coalition. UCLA researchers have reported on topics ranging from rising arrests of homeless individuals to bail expenditures that over-burden people of color.

A Shared Mission

Million Dollar Hoods isn’t the only initiative building partnerships to advance justice. The student-run Justice Work Group, co-founded by Million Dollar Hoods researcher Danielle Dupuy, encourages conversation and collaboration to improve the legal system. Last fall, the group held its first conference, “Beyond the Bars LA,” which drew more than 1,000 attendees and deepened partnerships among campus and community groups working to reduce mass incarceration in the U.S.

Collaboration characterizes UCLA, and it will take all these groups to take the next step — a Center for Justice that unites the university’s education, research, and service to promote equality in community policing and prison reform. Until then, Lytle-Hernández’s vision is clear: “Together, we will build upon the Bunche Center’s rich history of developing and deploying Black Studies as a field of study that transforms the world in which we live.”

To learn more, contact

Chia Yen310-206-6872

Published March 2018

Scholars study a color-coded map of Los Angeles County on their laptop screen.

Scholars study a color-coded map of Los Angeles County on their laptop screen.

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