Policy and Praxis

Current Projects

People’s Budget of San José

SJBP Logo

Please take our People's Budget of San Jose survey here

See background report here [pdf]

The SJSU HRI is excited to announce the People’s Budget of San José as a new project funded in part by the generous support of the Heising-Simons Foundation. SJSU HRI faculty researchers are teaming up with Sacred Heart Community Service and 30+ community organizations and public agencies to research and create a “People’s Budget of San José” [PBSJ] representing the needs and spending priorities of city residents. As an update from the detailed report attached, the PBSJ will move forward in two primary steps:

  1. Focus Groups
    Several focus groups (5-8 residents each) will be conducted via Zoom with a diverse range of local residents to explore what are described as the most pressing public needs, definitions of “public safety,” and to begin the process of public education the budget and budget process. These focus groups are being conducted through January of 2021.

  2. Public Survey
    Following these focus groups, SJSU HRI and broader PBSJ Coalition will solicit a brief, online survey to at least 0.05% (5-7K people) of the city population. The survey will allow residents to express their public spending (budget) priorities according to community defined needs.

The results of the PBSJ project will be presented and made available to the public as a series of reports and useful materials. These products are intended to inform policy and practice in San José for the foreseeable future.


Silicon Valley Pain Index

Dr. Armaline speaking at press conference

2021 SV Pain Index [pdf]

Dr. Scott Myers-LiptonThe HRI will offer the SVPI as an annual report on the state of inequality and quality of life for San José and Silicon Valley residents. Its inspiration can be found in Professor Bill Quigley's Katrina Pain Index following the devastating 2005 storm. The SVPI measures are meant to reflect fundamental (IBHR) International Human Rights and to serve as one of many potential illustrations of Santa Clara County’s [SCC] performance as a “human rights county.” 

First produced in 2020, the 2021 SVPI report updates prior findings and illustrates a stunning increase in inequalities over the past year, as communities weathered a global rebellion against racist police violence, the global COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout, and an economic downturn producing high unemployment rates in the face of still rising housing costs.

While our community was shocked at the incredibly high levels of racial discrimination and income and wealth inequality detailed in the 2020 SVPI, the 2021 Silicon Valley Pain Index shows how the level of inequality during this pandemic has gone from bad to horrific. As 2021 SVPI shows, most all “pain” indicators have worsened, as hunger, housing insecurity, homelessness, high school dropout rates, income inequality, and wealth inequality have all increased.

SV Pain Index: Dr. King's "Curious Formula" [pdf]

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We celebrate Dr. King’s birthday each year since his life’s work provides the nation a way out of the chaos of white supremacy and toward the beloved community offered by a multi-ethnic, multi-racial democracy. But for Dr. King, the beloved community was blocked by racism and economic exploitation, which he saw as interconnected, stating, “A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will ‘thingify’ them and make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically.” For King racism and economic exploitation were part of the structures of society that were enacted out through various institutions (i.e., political, economic, education, family, criminal justice, etc.), and they created a pattern, or "curious formula". King saw this “curious formula” dating back to the writing of the Constitution in 1787, where a black person was defined as 60% of a human being when determining taxation and representation. According to King, this initial principle led to a “curious formula” where Blacks received one-half of the good things in life, and two times the bad.

This curious formula was the reality in 1968, when King was murdered, and sadly, it is the reality today in these United States, and more specifically for us in Silicon Valley. And while there are probably not many in Silicon Valley who would support the violent actions taken this past week by the white extremist organizations in Washington DC, institutionalized racism still dominates most of our institutions as is demonstrated by the MLK infographic presented by Silicon Valley Pain Index. In dramatic color images of King, the infographic shows the curious formula’s consistent pattern where our institutions provide Blacks (and other people of color) one-half of the good things in life, and two times the bad.

SV Pain Index: 2020 [pdf]


The California Law Enforcement Accountability [CLEAR] Act [pdf]

Infomational graphic for CLEAR ACT

FBI Investigates Law EnforcementFollowing countless reporting from journalists and federal agencies on the infiltration of law enforcement agencies and threat of mass terror now clearly posed by right wing extremist organizations, the SJSU HRI is aggressively pursuing meaningful policy solutions. Confronting white nationalism, fascism(s), and other forms of “right wing extremism” will be a central area of focus for HRI policy and research activity in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 AYs.

Institute faculty have been working with state and federal lawmakers, relevant legal scholars, and community organizations to research and design the California Law Enforcement Accountability [CLEAR] Act. The CLEAR Act is the first of its kind in the U.S. designed to effectively prohibit anyone with membership in or significant affiliation with right wing extremist organizations from serving in any CA law enforcement agency.

CLEAR Act has currently passed public safety committee and awaits appropriations


Care First, Jail Last Coalition in Santa Clara County

SJSU HRI faculty wrote one of the two policy guiding reports [pdf] on jail conditions in Santa Clara County following the brutal murder of Michael Tyree in 2015. Both of these reports detailed horrific conditions and treatment that clearly violated the Constitutional and Human Rights of inmates, including but not limited to an unsanitary environment, routine abuse by guards, and lack of access to needed medical care or contact with the outside world. Following these reports, three hunger strikes held by prisoners supported by their families and communities were staged over approximately five years to continue fighting for jail reform. Meanwhile, the SCC Board of Supervisors were on a path to build a new jail facility in addition to much needed improvements to existing jail facilities in response to suits and legal decisions since Tyree’s murder.

Under the leadership of our partners at Silicon Valley DeBug, we are now working closely with system impacted families and communities to build fully functional, viable alternatives to incarceration (jail) in Santa Clara County. In a stunning victory, we have already succeeded in stopping the plans to build a new jail in SCC, and will now work with partners to create a county-wide “Alternatives to Incarceration Report” in what will be a community driven study session by the SCC Board of Supervisors to explore non-carceral alternatives to a new jail.

Desciption of Covid Hunger Strike
After 9 days - those inside Santa Clara Main Jail have stopped their hunger strike after getting several key demands met. But they are asking for supporters to keep pressure on jail admin to ensure promises are kept and health standards are honored.

Please see the detailed report from our partners at SV DeBug [pdf]

Outgoing Supervisor Dave Cortese on Board of Supervisors Decision to Consider Alternatives to Incarceration

For more information on this movement in our county, see the following statements from system impacted organizers here:
DeBug Statement on Stopping the Building of a Jail in Santa Clara County
Dismantling the Architecture of Incarceration


The San Jose Scholarship Fund

The San Jose Scholarship Fund is an immediate option to divert public resources from traditional, reactionary forms of law enforcement (i.e. “policing”) to preventative public safety measures that include but are not limited to investments in public education, public employment, public health, social services, public resources/infrastructure, and new approaches to emergency response. By divesting a mere 1% ($4.61M) of the approximately $461M in General Funds that currently go to the SJPD, the San Jose Scholarship Fund will send at least 1200 local students to the city’s three universities/colleges (San Jose State University, San Jose City College, Evergreen Valley College) for free, every year, for the foreseeable future.

The San Jose Scholarship Fund should be understood as:

  1. A form of preventative justice and crime control that provides real opportunity to young adults and other “non-traditional” students with financial need.  This is particularly important as the city and country face massive spikes in unemployment not seen since the Great Depression, and an economic downturn now expected to demand a long recovery process.
  2. A form of restorative justice that seeks to invest in disadvantaged communities that have suffered most from failed criminal justice policies of the last century.  Research repeatedly confirms the claims of poor communities and communities of color, who’ve decried and resisted unaccountable police violence in the U.S. for generations.
  3. A first step to begin the process of divestment and re-investment and demonstrate its potential on the local level

Cannabis Policy Reform in San José and Santa Clara County

Equity Program Phase I and II

In brief, cannabis equity programs are designed as forms of restorative justice—where some of the opportunities and revenues of the legal cannabis market are reserved for the people and communities most disenfranchised by decades of failed criminal prohibition.

Institute faculty consulted on the Equity Program Ordinance in San Francisco [pdf], Statewide policy in Sacramento, and authored the San Jose Cannabis Equity Assistance Program Ordinance (01/10/19) locally. After writing the San José Cannabis Equity Assistance Ordinance—Phase I of the San José Cannabis Equity Program—the SJSU HRI wrapped up consultations with the City on Phase II (02/20), now in Committee. Phase II will cover the opening of retail licensing in San José (delivery and retail storefront) for equity and general applicants. Phase II will also necessarily include determining the permanent funding stream for cannabis equity assistance and incubation programs.

In addition, Drs. Kinney and Armaline worked with city staff to secure over $500K in funding for building and implementing Phase I of the equity program. Though this marks the successful close to the Institute’s cannabis equity policy project, it will continue to partner with the city as appropriate to co-sponsor events (cannabis equity job fairs).


Universal Cannabis Record Clearance in Santa Clara County and California


SAMI Cannabis Record Clearance Panel FlyerAfter over 2 years of organizing and research with Human Rights students (Students Against Mass Incarceration [SAMI]), a coalition* of over 20 community organizations and cannabis industry leaders, Congressman Ro Khanna, Supervisor Dave Cortese, and the County DA and Public Defender’s Offices, Santa Clara County proactively expunged or reduced all eligible cannabis records--13,000 cases for over 9,000 people--on April 29th, 2020.

Following universal record clearance scheduled for the end of March, Drs. Kinney and Armaline will publish a report in partnership with county agencies on this new online system such that other counties in California might replicate it.

Universal Cannabis Record Clearance Coalition*

Cannabis Record Clearance Coalition

  • Human Agenda
  • The Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet
  • Caliva
  • Asian Law Alliance
  • Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance
  • San Jose Cannabis Equity Working Group
  • UFCW5
  • Santa Clara Law International Human Rights Clinic
  • Sacred Heart
  • LUNA, NAACP San Jose/Silicon Valley
  • UJIMA.

Building a Student Success Center for System Involved Students and Families at SJSU

Given the history and expertise of the Institute in criminal justice reform, the SJSU HRI will work with close partners (such as the Record Clearance Project) to develop a pipeline for formerly incarcerated community members and their families to complete their undergraduate degree at SJSU.  Providing opportunity and support for the formerly incarcerated can help to reduce recidivism and associated local social problems such as homelessness. This project will come together under the leadership of Legal Action Coordinator Edith Kinney (JS), and will include two initial components:

  • Develop an admission pipeline and support infrastructure at SJSU, appropriately partnered with community colleges, and the local county jail system (Main Jail and Elmwood).
  • Develop and propose a Re-Entry Student Success Center at SJSU as is done for other at-risk student populations.

Faculty and students are working now to build a student organization for system involved students and their families, draft a proposal to SJSU and the CSU, and investigate potential resources as the first critical steps to this new project. This work will resume as students return to campus in fall 2020.


Reforming California and Federal Law to Meet International Human Rights Standards on Police Use of Deadly force

CA AB 392 and the PEACE Act

The faculty and students of the SJSU HRI are working hard to address the nearly 1000 fatal police shootings a year in the U.S.—the highest rate in the developed world. This police violence is targeted overwhelmingly at people of color, the poor and dispossessed, LGBTQ populations, and those struggling with mental illness. Though this work continues, the HRI collaborated with community organizations and policy makers to establish significant policy solutions at the state and federal level.

Institute faculty and students participated in the statewide coalition to draft and successfully pass CA AB 392, the California Act to Save Lives.* AB 392 brings CA police use of deadly force standards in line with international law and standards that prioritize the human (and Constitutional) rights to life and due process. Specifically, the HRI provided documentation and information on international standards on police use of deadly force. As a result, California now has one of the strictest use of force standards in the country (along with Washington state). *Signed into law on 08/19/19.

Institute faculty then worked with Congressman Ro Khanna to research and help to draft the PEACE Act [pdf], a bill that brings the law defining police use of force in line with international standards for all federal law enforcement and provides necessary incentives for states to revise their laws in kind. The PEACE Act represents an enormous opportunity to scale policy reform up to the federal level and bring this reform to other states. Please see the SJSU HRI Director and many other policy experts quoted in the press release of the bill.


Improving the Human Rights of Immigrants and Migrant Workers

Ending the 50-Mile Rule

Immigrant, migrant worker, and refugee rights have long been an area of expertise for Institute faculty and Human Rights Minor Program students. In addition to working for 2.5 years with the DALE Coalition in Santa Clara County to provide DACA/DAPA assistance to thousands of families in need, Institute faculty and students organized with Human Agenda and other partners to make sure the thousands of migrant children in the state have access to public education.

After many years of organizing with Human Agenda and other partners, the California legislature effectively ended the “50-mile rule” that prevented many children of migrant workers from attending public schools without constant interruption.