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The Issue

Collisions between the climate crisis, environmental degradation, the criminal justice (CJ) system, and crime are increasing in frequency, profoundly affecting a growing number of CJ personnel and the communities they serve across the United States. Despite these ecological crises being some of the most pressing challenges of our time, their intersections with crime, public safety, and the CJ system are poorly appreciated. 


The CJ system and its emergency response structures (or the lack thereof) have the potential to influence the state of climate preparedness and adaptation in the years to come. A nascent body of research has identified significant implications for racial, social, and health justice and equity. However, few scholars or practitioners in health, climate, and particularly the CJ fields have explored these opportunities in depth. 

This new Action Lab project seeks to mainstream awareness of these intersections, build a community of practice, and catalyze policies and practices that will engage the CJ system in mitigating and adapting to these ecological crises.

This new project will leverage the Action Lab’s unique interdisciplinary expertise and approach in building and synthesizing the evidence base and making change. Senior fellow and project director Jeremiah Goulka brings his Hurricane Katrina experience, having served as co-founder and executive director of the Southeast Louisiana Criminal Justice Recovery Task Force. The task force was a joint local-state-federal effort co-chaired by then U.S. Attorney Jim Letten (E.D.La.) and Vice Admiral Thad Allen (U.S. Coast Guard, serving as principal federal official for Hurricane Recovery and Response) chartered to rebuild and reform the New Orleans-area CJ system after the storm.

These crises have been harming thousands of law enforcement officers, CJ personnel, justice-involved people, and residents for years. Among practitioners, this represents a significant occupational health and safety problem. This new project brings to bear the Lab’s deep expertise in boosting the occupational safety and health of law enforcement officers rooted in its SHIELD Training Initiative

We are also partnering with Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and currently professor of Law and David W. Burcham Chair in Ethical Advocacy at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, who has authored key articles on how the climate crisis will affect the CJ system. (Links to her articles here and here)

Project Agenda

The Action Lab kicked off this project with the publication of a foundational article mapping the intersections between the climate crisis, environment degradation, crime and public safety, public health, and the CJ system (linked in the resources below). Next steps include:


  • Convenings of scholars and practitioners

  • Developing a resource bank as a hub for knowledge at these intersections

  • Developing a landscape of current experience and lessons learned among agencies across the country

  • Building the evidence base at select intersections through additional research and publication

  • Developing toolkits and training curricula for CJ leaders and personnel

  • Building a menu of adaptation strategies CJ leaders and personnel can employ to make it more likely that their personnel and communities are able to thrive in the coming years

  • Seeking funding to support and scale up this work


Jeremiah Goulka, Sunyou Kang et al, Northeastern University Law Review

For further information on this page, please contact Sunyou Kang

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