LORENZO JONES, CO-FOUNDER AND CO-DIRECTOR
Lorenzo Jones is the co-founder and co-director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, where he brings more than 25 years of experience organizing communities to influence the political process while developing, coaching, and mentoring community leaders for social justice.
From 2005 – 2016, Jones served as the executive director of A Better Way Foundation, a Connecticut-based advocacy organization building power in urban, suburban, and rural communities most affected by mass incarceration, the drug war, and the inequitable access to resources. Jones’s leadership strategy focuses on teaching everyday people that they can make the change they want to see. During his tenure with ABWF, he built numerous campaigns that ran the spectrum of criminal justice and drug policy reform objectives. At the center of these campaigns were local leaders, trained and coached by Jones and his team. ABWF racked up an impressive list of victories, including reforming Connecticut’s cannabis laws – including decriminalization of marijuana and passing a medical marijuana bill; establishing racial and ethnic impact statements for criminal justice legislation (CT was the second state in the nation to pass such a law); passing harm reduction and overdose prevention laws, including expanding naloxone access and access to clean syringes; banning the box in CT to reduce employment discrimination for people convicted of felonies (overriding a governor’s veto); ending mandatory minimums; and more.
Under Jones’s leadership, ABWF made community organizing a fundamental part of their policy reform strategy. ABWF wasn’t only advocating in the state capital to change laws: they were sponsoring midget football teams, fighting to save public libraries, organizing father-son fishing trips, and more. These activities stand as an example of Jones’s theory of change in action. ABWF’s impressive track record stands as a testament to the success of this approach.
Jones began his organizing career in 1991 in Hartford, Connecticut as a community organizer with the Asylum Hill Organizing Project. In 1994, he joined United Connecticut Action for Neighborhoods (UCAN), where Alta Lash and Jack Mimnaugh mentored him for nearly 15 years. He learned the science and art of community organizing by building campaigns led by community residents fighting for police accountability and public safety, expanding alternative to incarceration programs, securing resources for community development, and more. His last major project at UCAN was the organizing of Create Change, an action group led primarily by people of color and people directly impacted by the failed war on drugs. Create Change was founded with the mission of using community organizing to build leaders and transform policies in Connecticut. Under Jones’s leadership, Create Change built and launched new groups, working with people that had been marginalized, criminalized, and locked out of the mainstream economy. They took on fights nobody else would take up, like the effort in 2005 to end Connecticut’s racially biased disparities in crack/powder cocaine penalties.
As the reputation of A Better Way Foundation grew more prominent outside the state, Jones became a sought-after trainer and coach on campaigns across the country and internationally. He has lent his expertise to the Open Society Foundations, Perrin Family Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Drug Policy Alliance, Council on Europe’s Pompidou Working Group on Drug Policy, and reform working groups in Poland, Canada, and Brazil. In 2013, in an effort to train a new generation of community organizers in Connecticut, Jones led ABWF to partner with the Perrin Family Foundation to build and launch the innovative BLOC program -- Building Leadership and Organizing Capacity. The program is training a new cohort of community organizers in Connecticut.
Jones lives in Hartford, Connecticut, with his wife Kimberly Jones and three children Jordan, Lorenzo Jr., and Loren.