Building and Engaging Community Power: The Importance of Community Engagement

Meaningful engagement with community members throughout planning and implementation can position stakeholders to build strong relationships with the people they serve and ensure that new initiatives are grounded in community needs and culture in order to produce successful outcomes. During this session, speakers from across the country will discuss different strategies for community engagement, including identifying whom to engage and how.

Stephanie Shaw, Project Manager, Corrections and Reentry, CSG Justice Center

Stephanie Shaw works with states and counties to improve outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system. Shaw has also worked to reduce the overuse of jail through initiatives such as Stepping Up and the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. She has extensive experience with youth and families involved in the justice system through direct service, research, technical assistance, and program design. Most recently, Shaw was the director of violence prevention at the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, where she worked to enhance community-led youth gun violence prevention. Shaw holds a BS in psychology from the University of Arizona and an MA in community psychology from the University of New Haven.

Cheryl Bonacci, Communications Director, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR)

Cheryl Bonacci is an accomplished Senior Executive demonstrating success across the entertainment, juvenile/criminal justice, and nonprofit industries. Leveraging extensive experience establishing change, she has served as an executive with organizations such as The Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), Healing Dialogue and Action and The Harold Robinson Foundation, developing infrastructure and improving organizational impact. As the Communications Director for NICJR Cheryl is responsible for both internal and external communications strategies and implementation for all NICJR programs and projects. She also serves as a Senior Project Manager working with cities and organizations in reimagining public safety efforts.

Reverend Dr. Charles Boyer, Founding Director, Salvation and Social Justice

The Reverend Dr. Charles Franklin Boyer is a third-generation African Methodist Episcopal preacher. He is the pastor at Greater Mt. Zion in Trenton, New Jersey, and the founder of Salvation and Social Justice, a nonpartisan Black faith-rooted organization that believes liberation should precede legislation, and prophetic vision should precede public policy. Boyer is a leading faith voice in New Jersey for racial justice issues, the campaign to abolish the drug war, and the criminalization of Black people. His advocacy has led to the statewide adoption of racial impact analysis for sentencing, closure of youth prisons, voting rights restoration for people on probation and parole, the independent prosecutor law, and restricting solitary confinement. He works closely with political leadership, Black Legislative caucus, and the administration to advance community-led policy changes. He received his DMin and his MDiv from Payne Theological Seminary and his MBA from Franklin University.

Renita Francois, Executive Director, Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP), Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ)

Renita Francois is the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety. Ms. Francois previously served as the deputy director for three years, developing innovative strategies, like NeighborhoodStat, that bring government and citizens together to address quality of life and safety in NYC’s public housing developments and surrounding neighborhoods. Her experience serving as a resource coordinator working directly for the juvenile justice bench at Brooklyn Family Court, and as a frontline staff member for public housing programs in both Los Angeles and Compton, California, give Ms. Francois unique insight into the multilayered challenges facing vulnerable communities. Renita Francois holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Cornell University. 

Mariela Ruiz-Angel, Director, Albuquerque Community Safety (ACS) Department

Mariela Ruiz-Angel is a proud Chicana, born and raised in the border city of El Paso, Texas. She understands the needs of diverse communities and works to empower, educate, and advocate for all Burqueños. Prior to her appointment as director of ACS, Ruiz-Angel was the city coordinator for the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. In her new role leading the third branch of public safety, Ruiz-Angel is working to ensure that the department follows through with its mission of advocating and promoting a citywide culture that values the voices of all residents. She brings to the City of Albuquerque an extensive background in education, business development, and corporate customer relations. She holds an MBA in human resources and an MSW in leadership and administration.