Apply Now to Join the Stepping Up to Advance Racial Equity Community of Practice

May 5, 2023

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center is hosting a virtual Community of Practice (CoP) focused on advancing racial equity for people with behavioral health needs who are in the criminal justice system. Following the Stepping Up “Six Questions” blueprint and the brief Applying the Stepping Up Framework to Advance Racial Equity, this opportunity will guide counties through concrete steps to make progress toward racial equity. 


Counties that implement the Stepping Up framework are well-positioned to work toward racial equity in their local behavioral health and criminal justice systems. This CoP will support counties in applying the tools they already have in place to “start small” in building policies, programs, and practices that increase racial equity and break down structural racism inherent in our justice system.  


Data tracking and analysis fundamentally drive this work, building on the Stepping Up four key measures and the methodology of Set, Measure, Achieve. This CoP will cover bringing diverse representation to the table; drilling down in data; identifying where inequities occur; objectively reviewing programs, policies, and practices that have the potential to introduce human bias; and applying corrective actions. 


CSG Justice Center staff will co-lead the Community of Practice with racial equity experts from the Center for Effective Public Policy (CEPP) and will feature presentations from Stepping Up counties. Participants will have opportunities for peer learning and dialogue and will receive guidance on how to adapt these guidelines to advance racial equity in their own jurisdictions.  


Upon completion of the CoP, participating teams will be equipped with strategies they can use in their own communities to address racial equity through the Stepping Up framework. They will also have the tools to make and sustain systems improvements and track progress toward racial equity. 


  • Session 1: July 12, 2023
  • Session 2: August 24, 2023
  • Session 3: September 21, 2023
  • Office Hours: September 28, 2023

All sessions will take place 2:00–3:30 p.m. ET via Zoom web meeting.

If you are interested in participating, submit this application by Friday, June 9, 2023. If you have any questions, contact Kate Reed at

Who should apply?

This CoP is best suited for counties that have made a commitment to advance racial equity at the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice and have the support of county leadership. Ideally, participating counties should have established planning teams with a county criminal justice/Stepping Up coordinator as the point person. It is strongly recommended that participants have access to jail and behavioral health data and regularly collect and track race and ethnicity data for individuals at the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice. 

Who should participate?

We encourage each county to participate as an interdisciplinary team comprising the following representatives: (1) county criminal justice/Stepping Up coordinator; (2) jail administration; (3) data analyst or staff who have access to behavioral health and criminal justice data; (4) staff from behavioral health department, agency, or provider; (5) racial equity manager or related staff; and (6) people with behavioral health needs or lived experience in the justice system and/or staff from advocacy organizations that support this population. Six team members at most may actively participate in each session; however, additional team members may join to listen in. The suggested attendees will vary for each session, with the exception of county criminal justice/Stepping Up coordinators, who are advised to attend all sessions. Participating counties will coordinate with the CSG Justice Center to determine the appropriate combination of attendees for each session. 

What will the sessions cover?

Session 1 will introduce the CoP goals, expectations, and participating teams. This session will provide context for the importance of incorporating a racial equity lens in Stepping Up efforts and offer an overview of the new brief “Applying the Stepping Up Framework to Advance Racial Equity.” Participants will also learn how to actualize racial equity with committed, representative leaders and planning team members and discuss the importance of building a diverse stakeholder group. To successfully advance racial equity, this group should have representation from impacted communities, including people with lived experience in the criminal justice and behavioral health systems and individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) to successfully advance racial equity.

Session 2 will address how to gather accurate demographic information during the jail booking process and analyze data on the BIPOC jail population with serious mental illness. Participants will be encouraged to bring their own data to the session and have an opportunity to meaningfully discuss the datasets and analyses. Race and ethnicity descriptors and categories will also be addressed in this discussion.

Session 3 will include discussions on pinpointing areas of opportunity to increase racial equity and how to move forward with system improvements to advance racial equity. This session will focus on aligning policies, practices, and programs with Stepping Up data, identifying and assessing discretionary decision-making points, and applying racial equity tools to polices, practices, and programs. It will also introduce participants to the “one step, one policy” approach to driving change incrementally, providing an opportunity for participants to apply this philosophy to their work and follow up with action steps.

The Office Hours session will conclude the CoP and feature individual or small group technical assistance sessions with CSG Justice Center staff and racial equity experts from CEPP. Participants will be encouraged to bring an example of a policy, practice, or program from their county that has potential to advance racial equity and will receive coaching on how to make and sustain systems improvements and track progress toward racial equity.

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