Square One

Square One is taking on the fundamental issues: poverty and racial inequality, violence and safety, criminalization and punishment. We're challenging traditional responses to crime, and looking in new places for more effective responses, by asking a new question: if we start over from “square one,” how would justice policy be different?

If we want to change the trajectory of justice policy, we need new ideas, and ways to test and talk about them to change the national conversation. The Square One Project aims to incubate new thinking on our response to crime, promote more effective strategies, and contribute to a new narrative of justice in America.

Square One Initiatives

The Executive Session on the Future of Justice Policy, in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, brings together more than two dozen leaders from advocacy, social services, academia, criminal justice, and communities heavily affected by the justice system to generate and cultivate new ideas. The group meets in an off-the-record setting twice a year to examine research, consider new concepts, and refine proposals from group members. The Session will publish a series of papers that we hope will catalyze thinking and policy reform. By bringing together diverse perspectives, the Executive Session tests and pushes its participants to challenge their own thinking and consider new options.

The Roundtable on the Future of Justice Policy, with the support of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, is a series of public, live-streamed forums that bring together a cross-section of leaders, community members, academics, and other experts to consider discussion papers authored by leading researchers. They are designed to spark transformational thinking about what we can expect for our communities and our justice system. Building on research, innovative reform efforts, and real-world expertise in communities, the Roundtables will showcase work from the very local to the global, creating a public record for learning and sharing information about what a new “square one” might look like.

The third methodology of the Square One project adds an unprecedented level of information-gathering and information-sharing to the other components: the Square One Project will utilize direct community engagement, a comprehensive outreach and communication strategy, and ongoing public opinion and political analysis to inform and support the substance and impact of Square One’s work.

A multi-faceted criminal justice reform movement is now unfolding across the country. Communities all around the country are beginning to address skyrocketing incarceration and developing new ways to respond to the problems of violence and poverty that wind up in our courts and jails. As criminal justice reform gains momentum, it’s time to fundamentally rethink the nation’s approach to crime. We have an opportunity to imagine a basic transformation of justice - to develop a new framework that relies less on harsh punishment, more on community strength, and reduces the explosive interactions of violence, poverty, and racial inequality. Seizing this moment requires a forthright exploration of the realities of crime in America as well as an honest examination of the conventional policy responses to violence.