The Tactical Organizing Lab is a forum for community organizers to experiment with interventions to bring systemic change to the criminal legal and immigration systems.  This includes court watching, community oversight formations, participatory defense hubs, bail funds and bailouts. These mechanisms of grassroots participation and intervention in the criminal legal and immigration systems have long been deployed by communities to shift power in court proceedings and outcomes. Building on and learning from this legacy, the Lab produces tools and resources for organizers using community justice tactics to creatively and comprehensively tackle multiple drivers of mass incarceration— including, but not limited to, court fees and fines, probation and parole, and money bail.

The resources generated in the Lab are also used to support community accountability* campaigns that strategically target levers of promised criminal legal system “reform,” such as the implementation of risk assessment instruments, the policies and practices of prosecutors or judges, and the implementation of “pretrial reform” via legislation, court orders and special rules. While litigation or policy changes can reform systems of mass incarceration, transformative change would require that people and communities directly impacted have real power to mandate decarceration. The Lab works with community-based organizations in jurisdictions across the country to pilot models of community accountability and to support the strategic development of their organizing campaigns.

Much of the work at the Tactical Organizing Lab interacts with, and is in service to, the other projects hosted at the Community Justice Exchange, including the National Bail Fund Network and the People’s Power Accountability Project.

*We use the term “community accountability” here to refer to public campaigns that demand responsibility from state officials and build collective oversight of resources and redistribution.