From Research to Reform: Policy and Communication Strategist Joins CJR
The work generated by the Center for Justice Research (CJR) is made available to the masses in an easily digestible manner.
Journalists throughout the country, lawmakers while they craft new policy, other research centers, and higher ed institutions spanning from coast-to-coast in collaborative work, are all a part of our conversation.
As CJR’s Coordinator for Outreach and Communications, Blair Lee’s chief responsibility at the center is to ensure that the important work being done at CJR is made known to a wider audience, while simultaneously increasing strategic engagement with the most necessary stakeholders.
Since joining the CJR team in June 2021, he has been busy. Lee has hosted Texas lawmakers for a roundtable discussion on felony disenfranchisement and criminal reform efforts in Texas following up from the 2021 legislative session. He has had an opportunity to meet with various police chiefs from around the state, and has met with local city council members and advocacy groups identifying better approaches for supporting their decision making. It’s a role that Lee finds fulfilling and that maximizes his Washington D.C. experience.
“In this role I work on a host of projects on how best to share the center’s solutions,” Lee said. “I continually build on and cultivate relationships with external stakeholders for the Center for Justice Research. I am also continually looking for new and innovative ways to get the center at the table with the right individuals to talk about the next steps in criminal justice reform.”
“The matter is simple, criminal justice reform will happen when we follow the research, and it's up to me to keep the center as a driver of the local and national approach to reform.”
While in Washington D.C., Lee held a multitude of roles on various congressional and mayoral campaigns. Overtime, Lee knew he wanted to transition into higher education, but did not necessarily want to primarily teach in a lecture hall. The opportunity to transition to higher education came to Lee one day after he saw Dr. Howard Henderson, founding director of CJR, on CNN discussing the Center’s work. The discussion spurred him to reach out to Henderson, which eventually led to a full-time role with CJR.
While in D.C., Blair, “Had the opportunity to work with and for a number of elected officials. I have experience building strong relationships with lawmakers - regardless of their political affiliation - reading and drafting policy, all of which translates perfectly into my current role.”
Adjusting to different surroundings is natural for Lee, as he comes from a military family. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, raised in San Antonio, Texas, and educated on the east coast. During Lee’s time as a student at the University of Baltimore, young people mobilized and demonstrated after the death of Freddie Gray. The experience is one that excites him to work with the next generation of justice-orientated individuals.
Though his time in Houston has been limited, Lee enjoys the city and finds his recent move to have come at an interesting point, with social justice efforts gaining momentum, and in his life. He and his wife have a newborn daughter, and have limited themselves a great deal when it comes to interacting with large crowds. However, outside of work, Lee enjoys being a new father, spending time outdoors, and grilling with friends.
Looking ahead, Blair recognizes the need for all sides of the political spectrum to come together if we are to make meaningful and necessary changes in our society. “The time is now. Never before have individuals of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds been in a unified front and said enough is enough. The time for change is now.”