The Criminal Justice Initiative 2013 Grants
“Anti-immigrant laws, like Arizona’s SB 1070 and Georgia’s HB 87, are not only a consequence of racism, but also of the greed for money. It is a huge business to criminalize and incarcerate our communities because the federal government pays private prison companies an average of $122 per day per person in prison.” Enlace Staff.
Enlace is an alliance of worker centers, unions, and community organizations in Mexico and the U.S., organizing to empower the working poor, many of whom are Mexican immigrants or employees of U.S.-based transnational corporations, to gain control of their communities and lives. As of 2011, nearly 50 percent of immigrants detained by the federal government are held in private prisons. Believing that comprehensive immigration reform is impossible without breaking the influence of the private prisons on lawmakers, Enlace has launched its Prison Divestment Campaign.
CJI funds will support the Prison Divestment Campaign, which induces major investors of private prisons to cut all ties. In the coming year, Enlace will seek divestment resolutions from companies in states whose legislators are members of the House and Senate committees that provide financing for private prisons. Targeted companies include Wells Fargo, Fidelity, and General Electric. Enlace will also target other institutions with investments in private prisons, including local governments, religious organizations and universities.
Los Angeles, California
“Doing the work of violence intervention and prevention, we are called upon to make peace… To do this work we place ourselves in harm’s way physically and politically. Though we do not carry badges or weapons of any sort, we have our Palabra – our Word. That gives us the credibility to operate in neighborhoods where gangs exist.” Alex Sanchez, Executive Director, Homies Unidos.
Homies Unidos ends violence and promotes peace in Central American communities through gang prevention and the empowerment of youth and families to achieve their full potential in a just, safe and healthy society. Homies Unidos has played a leadership role in maintaining the critical peace process between El Salvador’s two major gangs, ms-13 and Barrio 18, which operated from El Salvador throughout Central America and much of the United States.
CJI grant funds will support Homies Unidos continued organizing to reduce the disproportionate arrests, incarcerations, and deportations of community members in the U.S. and Central America through educating community members and policy makers. The group will continue to organize as part of two major coalitions: The Violent Crime Survivors Coalition for Public Safety and the Transnational Group in Support of The Peace Process In El Salvador (TAGSPPES).
“I only have my sister for support. My mom left me when I was 16, with my lil’ sister to raise. I did a good job cuz she finished school and now she has three of her own kids and she takes care of my daughter. I would sell drugs to pay my rent and buy my sister the nicest things in life. She never needed anything, and now she’s doing the same for my daughter without the drug game.” Prison Birth Project Member.
Recognizing the high number of young people in prison whose parents were incarcerated, the Prison Birth Project (PBP) is challenging the womb-to-prison-pipeline. The group offers support, advocacy, and activism training to mothers with experience of incarceration or life challenges that could lead to incarceration. PBP also offers doula care and childbirth education to women at the Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee, Massachusetts. PBP members successfully lobbied against mandatory minimum sentences for prostitution and daily prison fees. They won the right to revise the Massachusetts anti-shackling bill to include feedback from incarcerated women, especially women who were currently pregnant or have experienced labor while incarcerated and shackled.
A grant from CJI will help Prison Birth Project organize allies and formerly incarcerated women to build a statewide coalition in Massachusetts that will pass a new bill to protect incarcerated women’s healthcare rights and end the practice of shackling women during labor and delivery.
“Having served our sentences and returned home, we face circumstances that often seem designed to prevent our full participation in our communities and country: stigma for having a criminal conviction; barriers to gaining meaningful employment, and decent housing; barriers to constructive educational opportunities; lack of access to health care, and denial of our voting rights.” TOPS Staff.
The Ordinary People Society (TOPS) works to mobilize, educate and organize formerly incarcerated people to remove the barriers to productive civic lives. With 6 chapters throughout the south, TOPS works in alliances such as the North Carolina Harm Reduction Program and the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement (FICPM).
CJI grant funds will support TOPS programs, including re-establishing the right of formerly incarcerated people to vote; creating economic and employment opportunities, and overturning harsh drug sentencing practices in Alabama and across the South.
New York, New York
“Venita, one woman we interviewed, went into labor on November 10, 2008 while at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. With her contractions 15 minutes apart, Venita was taken to the hospital in waist restraints, ankle shackles and handcuffs. A black box was placed over her hands to further restrict movement.” Tina Reynolds, Executive Director, WORTH.
Woman on the Rise Telling Herstory (WORTH) is an association of currently and formerly incarcerated women. Through leadership development, organizing, mentoring, and telling their stories, WORTH transforms the lives of women affected by incarceration and changes public perception and policy. WORTH’s impressive track record of policy successes includes a New York State ban on shackling of imprisoned women during labor; an addendum to the Adoption and Safe Families Act to extend parental rights of incarcerated people; and guarantees of access to medical treatment for incarcerated women.
CJI grant funds will support continued efforts within New York State, as well as WORTH’s growing leadership in national efforts to end shackling, improve health care of incarcerated women and extend parental rights.
Los Angeles, California
“In Los Angeles—home to the largest reentry population in the United States—transforming lives through the provision of direct services is essential, but not enough. We are also dedicated to facilitating a grassroots community organizing effort that can amass enough political power to reverse the discriminatory policies and practices affecting prisoners, former prisoners and others with criminal records.” Susan Burton, Executive Director, All of Us or None, LA.
All of Us or None, LA, builds political power in the communities most affected by mass incarceration. Working to reduce the number of people in prison and end the discrimination faced by formerly-incarcerated people, the group combats prejudices against people with conviction histories, as well as structural barriers to successful community reentry.
CJI grant funds will support the capacity of All of Us or None to continue the fight for the human, civil and employment rights of formerly incarcerated people in Southern California. They are expanding their work on voter re-enfranchisement; furthering employment rights by promoting the Fair Hiring Ordinance and Ban the Box campaigns; and strengthening alliances of formerly incarcerated people with their participation in the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’sMovement (FICPM).
New Orleans, Louisiana
“Since difficulty finding a job and homelessness is a key player in the criminalization of LGBTQ youth for many of our members in New Orleans, particularly black transgender young women, BreakOUT! is excited … to place one more roadblock in the 'rail to Jail.'” BreakOUT! Staff.
BreakOUT! seeks to end the criminalization, discrimination and abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth who are directly impacted by the criminal or juvenile justice system in New Orleans. Building on the rich cultural tradition of resistance in the South, BreakOUT! is strengthening the power of LGBTQ youth through youth organizing, healing justice, and leadership development programs. Recently, BreakOUT! won a Proposed Consent Decree between New Orleans Police Department and the Department of Justice that prohibits profiling against LGBTQ people.
CJI’s grant will support the “We Deserve Better” campaign to end discriminatory policing practices that result in the disproportionate incarceration of LGBTQ communities. BreakOUT!’s “We Deserve Better” video, detailing LGBTQ youth experience with the New Orleans Police Department is now required viewing in all NOPD training. CJI funds will also support leadership development of formerly-incarcerated transgender youth, and build stronger alliances between criminal justice reform organizations in New Orleans.
“No one knows the flaws in our society better than we do and no one is more ready to take action to erase those flaws than we are.” EPOCA Staff.
EPOCA is an organization of former prisoners, allies, and families, working to create resources and opportunities for people who have been incarcerated. EPOCA is a recognized leader of statewide efforts to end the overuse and misuse of Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI), and provide alternatives to court-involvement and juvenile detention.
CJI grant funds will provide support for the multi-campaign initiative, Re-Routing the Prison Pipeline, which aims to reduce crime, criminalization, and recidivism, by developing community leaders who are most affected by current criminal justice policies.
“Family involvement and networking is necessary because no one knows what it is like to struggle with a child in the system better than another parent.” Grace Bauer, Co-Director, Justice for Families.
Justice for Families (J4F) is a national alliance of local organizations that mobilizes families to end our nation’s youth incarceration epidemic. J4F’s long-term aims are to reduce barriers to family support of incarcerated youth, reinforce the strength of local families to win local and federal policies, and win reinvestment of funds wasted on ineffective and harmful justice practices.
CJI grant funds will support a new campaign grounded in the findings of their report, Families Unlocking Futures. The report provides alarming statistics about the intersection of class and juvenile court involvement, and will be used to urge the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention to issue standards to state and local governments that would ensure the basic rights of youth and families within juvenile justice decision-making processes. The report, reviewed by Attorney General Eric Holder, has already led to a federal youth de-carceration target over the next 5 years.
“California’s current model of mass imprisonment is not financially sustainable. Our state cannot afford the economic and human waste of overcrowding, prison expansion, and human suffering.” Cynthia Chandler, Executive Director, Justice Now.
Justice Now builds political empowerment among people in women’s prisons and local communities to help bring about a safe, compassionate world without prisons. Primarily a human rights organization, Justice Now prioritizes the fight against gender oppression and violence.
CJI funds will support Justice Now’s Gender Justice campaign, challenging destruction of reproductive capacity in women’s prisons and gender responsive prison expansion. Funds will also sustain the Let Our Families Have a Future campaign, an ongoing effort to challenge the practice of coerced sterilization and other eugenic practices targeting people in prison. Campaign highlights include production and distribution of a series of short documentaries, and a national sign-on statement demanding an end to sterilization abuse.
San Francisco, California
“The issue of prison rape is often belittled by stand up comedians, but it’s really no laughing matter – especially if you’re a transgender woman locked up in an all-male facility.” TGIJP Member/Immigrant Detainee.
The Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) was created to challenge and end the human rights abuses committed against transgender, gender variant and intersex (TGI) people, especially transgender women, in California prisons and beyond. TGIJP recognizes that poverty, born of pervasive discrimination and marginalization of TGI people, is a major cause of TGI people ending up in jail. Accordingly, their work addresses human and civil rights abuses against TGI prisoners through strategies that effect systemic change. Program areas include prisoner support and peer legal services for currently incarcerated transgender women, leadership development for recently released and formerly incarcerated transgender women, and alliance-building with other organizations working for prisoners’ rights, racial and gender justice.
CJI’s grant will support the next stage of TGIJP’s membership development work and new leadership building structure, and sustain and enhance TGIJP’s capacity to nurture the growth of new leaders from their target community of low-income, TGI people.
Queens, New York
“I was pulled over by an officer out of a group of my friends, I believe because I was the darkest-skinned one out of all of them…. We know the same thing happens in Black, Latino, poor and queer communities. How do you think it feels to be stopped and searched by an officer when all you are doing is going home from school?” DRUM Member.
DRUM is a membership led organization of low-income South Asian and Muslim immigrant families, youth, and detainees, directly affected by racial profiling, immigration enforcement, and school to prison pipeline policies in New York City. With a membership of over 1,400 people, DRUM organizes to end harsh federal, state, and local law enforcement practices; to win legalization and workers’ rights, and to guarantee access to quality public education for low-income youth.
CJI grant funds will support the YouthPower! campaign to end the School to Prison Pipeline, and implement the Dignity in Schools campaign which combats discrimination against students of color.
San Francisco, California
“A substantial number of people who are potentially wrongfully convicted under the law are separated from children for decades and locked up day after day because they don’t have resources for legal representation! Shouldn’t this be a crime?” Deidre Wilson, CCWP Staff.
The California Coalition of Women Prisoners (CCWP) is a grassroots social justice organization with members inside and outside prison. The group challenges the institutional violence imposed on women, transgender people, and communities of color by the prison industrial complex (PIC). CCWP sees the struggle for racial and gender justice as central to dismantling the PIC and they prioritize the leadership of the people, families and communities most impacted in the building of this movement.
CJI’s general support grant will help maintain CCWP’s core work promoting the leadership of women and transgender people in the three California women’s prisons and San Francisco County Jail. This wok includes supporting re-entry into the community, and building a strong network of prisoners, formerly incarcerated people, and allies to promote de-carceration strategies, and change the unjust policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Queens, New York
“No person imprisoned or those released following confinement should lose the rights and attributes of citizenship… no person should be perpetually punished.” Mika’il Deveaux, Executive Director, Citizens Against Recidivism.
Citizens Against Recidivism works to achieve the restoration of all the rights and attributes of citizenship among people in prison or jail and those who have been released.
Citizens received a general support grant to expand their advocacy and activist efforts to bolster the enfranchisement of formerly incarcerated people in New York State, especially targeted to the Muslim community. The project will include efforts to influence policy changes within the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision that would increase the number of formerly incarcerated people and people under parole supervision who are able to register to vote.
“I used to wonder, when will this end? I do not want to die in my addiction nor do I want to die in prison. Fortunately for me, I found a way out, and I feel it is my duty to reach back and help the women who are sitting in “Reception,” having the same thoughts I had years ago.” CLAIM Member.
Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers (CLAIM) provides legal and educational services to maintain the bond between imprisoned mothers and their children. CLAIM advocates for policies and programs that benefit families of imprisoned mothers and reduce incarceration of women and girls.
CJI’s grant supports CLAIM’s Visible Voices program, a peer empowerment and advocacy group in which formerly incarcerated women develop their leadership skills and support one another as they transition back into their communities. Through public speaking events, legislative education, and administrative and media advocacy, Visible Voices members advocate for community-based alternatives to prison, for reducing termination of parental rights, and for improved reproductive health care for women prisoners, including CLAIM’s ongoingwork to end shackling of imprisoned women when they give birth.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
“1 in 10 American children has a parent under jurisdiction of courts (jail, prison, probation/parole.) As many as 70% of the children of prisoners end up in prison. WFL helps keep prisoners’ children from following in their parents’ footsteps.” Wings for L.I.F.E.
Wings for L.I.F.E (WFL) is building relationships with families, probationers, and former prisoners, through discussion, mentoring, empowerment and support. The group teaches life-skills, addresses the unique needs of family members, and mobilizes community stakeholders to identify and support people who have served time in prison.
CJI grant funds will support WFL’s work to expand relationships with community stakeholders to strengthen community-based programs that will lead to reintegration rather than recidivism. These include employment, financial management, substance abuse, probation and parole regulations, parenting, and anger management.