The Criminal Justice Initiative: 2013-14 Grants

Former gang members in Los Angeles organizing to bring clean water to prisoners in Mexico.

Queer youth of color networking from coast to coast to influence national policy regarding the policing of sex crimes.

Teaching the organizing model that put an end to the shackling of pregnant women in New York State to activists in Massachusetts and Washington.

CLICK HERE to view or download CJI's 2014 Grant List as a pdf. 

This is what movement-building looks like!

In 2013, CJI’s strategic focus was on building movements across communities, regions, and issues. The groups we fund are engaged in strategic efforts that include the leadership of formerly incarcerated people, their families and communities. Their work promotes alternative visions for long term change while improving lives through political education, leadership development, and policy change.

Leadership Grants ($15,000)

These groups exemplify national and international leadership on movement building as well as CJI’s commitment to supporting the leadership of those most harmed by the criminal justice system, from policing to parole.

BreakOUT! New Orleans, Louisiana

Founded by young queer people from the South, BreakOUT! was created just two years ago to end the criminalization of queer youth on the streets of New Orleans. BreakOUT! now plays a leadership role in the Stop-And-Frisk Affects Us All Campaign, a project-based coalition of more than fifteen organizations fighting to end stop-and-frisk as an NOPD practice.

One result of their campaign so far is that BreakOUT! is now an official site for lodging a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Monitor in New Orleans.

BreakOUT! is now beginning community-based research on experiences of LGBTQ youth and law enforcement. They will publish their report, including concrete recommendations for reform, with their partner organization National Council on Crime and Delinquency. The project is called: We Deserve Better.

Homies Unidos, Los Angeles, California

This group works across borders to prevent gang involvement and support safe, productive ex-gang member re-entry in El Salvador and California. Based in Los Angeles, they support the transnational peace process, helping to maintain a gang truce from Central America to Southern California. As part of this campaign, the group traveled to El Salvador and launched a successful campaign to address unsanitary and disease-promoting prison conditions, achieving the installation of water filters in four prisons.

Homies Unidos organizes two coalitions: California Coalition to Abolish Solitary Confinement, and Asociación Salvadoreña de Apoyo a Privados de Libertad en el Exterior (ASAPLE/Association of Salvadorans Deprived of Their Liberty in the Exterior).

Maxine King and Carole Eady of WORTH at the Morehouse College Mini-Medical Conference, 2010

Maxine King and Carole Eady of WORTH at the Morehouse College Mini-Medical Conference, 2010

Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH), New York, New York

Founded, run and led by formerly and currently incarcerated women, WORTH takes constituency leadership to new heights by changing policy and public perception for and about women who have been in conflict with the law.

WORTH is moving forward with a national agenda to end shackling of incarcerated women throughout pregnancy and during childbirth. Their upcoming schedule includes training on reproductive rights advocacy and ending shackling in prisons in Massachusetts, California, Arizona, Washington, and Louisiana. They share their secrets of success in training formerly incarcerated women to become powerful, persuasive, public speakers.

WORTH’s policy wins include legislative and prison policy: ending shackling in New York State prisons, the extension of parental rights to formerly and currently incarcerated families in New York State, increased access to medical services for imprisoned women with Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, and access to prisons to help prepare and train women for release.

Local Initiative and Networking Grants ($10,000)

The groups below are building grassroots movements at the state level. The final group listed here, Enlace, is engaged in both grassroots efforts and a national campaign to divest funds from the private prison industry.

California Coalition of Women Prisoners, Oakland, California

CCWP has 225 members inside prison and 100 outside, working together to collaboratively address conditions of confinement and release through parole, sentencing reform, and other systemic changes in the California prison system. CCWP recruits pro bono attorneys to represent incarcerated domestic violence survivors in parole hearings and with writs of habeas corpus to secure an earlier release; to date, 31 women have been released through these efforts. They also work with young prisoners with life sentences to gain their release through amendments to the 3-strikes law.

CCWP sees a direct link between society's reliance on incarceration and the lack of opportunities people in this society have to thrive, through well-paying jobs, health insurance, quality education, childcare, and social service resources. Their advocacy brings attention to the specific conditions that women and trans prisoners and former prisoners face within the prison industrial complex, and supports their self-empowerment and leadership contributions within the anti-prison movement.

Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, New Orleans, Louisiana

FFLIC is a statewide membership-based organization dedicated to creating a better life for Louisiana youth involved in, or at risk of becoming involved in, the criminal justice system. Louisiana rates of school suspension and expulsion are five times the national rate. The state sees 300,000 suspensions per year, providing a direct link to the school-to-prison pipeline, since suspensions significantly increase the risk of involvement in the criminal justice system.

FFLIC has a 50/2017 campaign, which aims to reduce the number of school suspensions and the number of young people locked up by 50% by 2017. Together with 12 coalition partners, they are working to increase parental involvement, engage parents and youth in developing and proposing alternatives to current suspension policies, work toward reducing incidences of disruptive behavior, and increase monitoring of suspensions and expulsions.

Using a human rights framework, FFLIC will also create a model code on education and dignity to exemplify constructive values that create a positive and productive climate for education.

Enlace, Portland, Oregon

Enlace has engaged 150 campaign partners across the country in their effort to break the immense lobbying power of the private prison industry. They do so by pressuring key financial institutions to end their support of the for-profit prison industry, one of the major driving forces behind tough on crime legislation, stop-and-frisk policies, and the dramatic increase in immigrant detention and deportation. Private prisons have also become notorious for exploitative labor conditions, inadequate food, and understaffing.

Enlace has won successful campaigns targeting such major investors as Wells Fargo, Allianz Asset Management, the United Methodist General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, and three University of California campuses. Most recently, Human Rights Commissions in Seattle and Portland endorsed resolutions calling for their cities to divest from private prisons and the Sacramento Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling on all public institutions to divest their holdings in private prisons. Enlace is on a mission, spreading its reach to college campuses, faith-based organizations, and financial institutions.

The campaign is also targeting House and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Members to defeat a budget measure that would require a quota of 34,000 immigrants in detention at any time.

Prison Birth Project, Amherst, Massachusetts

PBP was founded to go beyond support by training people with incarceration experience to organize and become reproductive rights and criminal justice leaders. They create immediate and long-term change by bringing access to reproductive care and leadership training behind the wall. After training from WORTH, PBP members helped write an anti-shackling bill (HB2234) that recently won passage in the Massachusetts legislature. They are bringing the voices and concerns of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women to the larger movement for reproductive freedom, through collaboration with NARAL Pro-choice America.

Maintaining critical access to local prisons, Prison Birth Project offers a life-saving doula project which provides counseling, childbirth education, labor coaching, breastfeeding, and post-partum support to pregnant women, as well as a political educational curriculum that connects personal stories with oppression analysis. 

The Ordinary People Society (T.O.P.S.), Dothan, Alabama

T.O.P.S. educates, organizes and mobilizes formerly incarcerated people to promote the civil rights of those currently and formerly imprisoned. They work through several coalitions in seven Southern states from Alabama to West Virginia. Key areas of focus include alternatives to incarceration and reforming punitive marijuana laws, including researching the effects of marijuana arrests (250,000 annually in Alabama alone) on the number of people barred from viable employment options.

As part of the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted Peoples Movement, they push for ban the box and other legal rights including more transitional housing beds for people coming out of prison, changes in drug policy, re-entry opportunities, voting rights, and affordable housing.

Border Action Network, Tucson, Arizona

Supporting human rights at the Arizona-Mexico border, BAN is working to keep border communities strong at a vulnerable time. In the coming year they will expand their community organizing process within low income immigrant communities and build the organizational leadership of people who are at risk of, or have been subjected to, deportation and immigration detention. BAN is a leader in pressuring the U.S. government to secure safe care and housing for thousands of children, many of whom cross the U.S.-Mexico border fleeing violence in Guatemala and El Salvador, only to be held in warehouses in Texas and Arizona under deplorable conditions.

As the leader of several regional and statewide coalitions, BAN is expanding their network of collaboration by reaching out to LGBTQ organizations and others who share their human rights framework. After months of publicly pressuring U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to release a critical review of its use-of-force cases and policies by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), BAN and other coalition partners can now claim a significant victory, as the PERF report was recently released. As a result of their advocacy, several questionable shootings of unarmed people are being re-investigated, and CBP has committed to developing new procedures governing the use of force.

BAN is also planning a major statewide initiative to provide workshops on the rights and options of undocumented people, detailing the potential benefits of President Obama’s Executive Order affecting deportation proceedings.

Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement (EPOCA), Worcester, Massachusetts

EPOCA has developed strong ally relationships throughout Massachusetts, bringing together a diverse array of organizations and community leaders. Their Jobs NOT Jails campaign, launched in December 2012, now has 126 organizations and activist cells working to divert billions of tax dollars away from building prisons and toward job creation in high-crime, low-income communities.

They have trained dozens of outstanding organizers and leaders and engaged thousands of people in action to dismantle oppression. Many formerly incarcerated people and community members who began their community involvement with EPOCA are now professional organizers in labor and community organizations and leaders in our neighborhoods, our workplaces and our children’s schools.

Capacity-building Grants ($5,000)

In addition to our general organizing grants, CJI has also set aside funds for new and emerging organizations with smaller budgets.

American Indian Prison Project Working Group, St. Paul, Minnesota

The mission of AIPPWG is to build a collective of American Indian justice/incarceration experts to influence policy change at national and local levels, resulting in an increase of restorative and “alternatives to detention” programs and services for American Indian youth and adults. This, in turn, would reduce the incarceration and recidivism rates of youth and adults in Indian Country, currently the highest in the country.

AIPPWG provides two American Indian cultural classes per month at the state juvenile correctional facility, where they offer re-entry mentoring and support as well. They also provide monthly classes to fifty American Indian women at the state correctional facility at Shakopee, Minnesota, and a language class for youth incarcerated at the tribal juvenile detention facility on the Pine Ridge reservation. They are researching and collecting current data on juvenile detainment, incarceration, length of sentences, services, and reentry services for American Indian youth in Minnesota and South Dakota.

CJI funding will support further outreach into Indian Country, allowing the group to deepen its post-release work and increase community/tribal contact with detained and incarcerated American Indian juveniles and adults.

All of Us or None, Riverside Chapter, Riverside, California

RAOUON is one of a growing number of All of Us or None chapters, all of which are initiatives of formerly incarcerated people, friends, family, and supporters who come together for the purpose of building a collective power base to bring about changes in perception, policy, and programs that will foster successful re-entry, social justice, and stronger communities.

By working with the other AOUON chapters as well as other social justice organizations, RAOUON has maximized its impact in spite of very limited economic resources, positioning the organization as an emerging force on the criminal justice scene. Through continued participation in coalitions, community outreach, hosting community engagement forums and criminal background relief clinics, policy work, and litigation, RAOUON is building the movement for transformation of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Community Success Initiative, Raleigh, North Carolina

The current political environment in North Carolina has created an important opportunity for CSI and their multi-issue coalition, the Second Chance Alliance. Activist groups and non-profit organizations are building coalitions and working together in ways unseen since the 1960s and 1970s. At this crucial moment, CSI is training new leaders to participate in the fight for North Carolina's future and, most importantly, to advocate for the rights of formerly incarcerated and convicted individuals. CSI hopes to leverage the media attention focused on their state to further propel criminal justice issues into the national spotlight.

CJI funds will support CSI to mobilize formerly incarcerated and convicted individuals to participate in the movement against mass incarceration, including their ban the box, voting rights, and legislative work. This grant will also increase their capacity to provide reentry services to North Carolina communities.

Freedom Archives, Oakland, California

Freedom Archives is an educational media archive dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of historical audio, video, and documents focusing on progressive movements from the 1960s to the present. Freedom Archives also creates media to impact prison justice issues. Their mission can be summarized in the phrase: “Preserve the past – illuminate the present – shape the future.”

CJI funds will help Freedom Archives to support California State prisoners to fight for their ongoing demands through media advocacy. Projects include a legal and legislative strategy to end prolonged isolation, indeterminate SHU (Security Housing Unit) sentences, gang validation lacking due process or based on secret evidence, and coerced de-briefing, while supporting the expansion of programming for all SHU inmates.

Freedom Archives’ collaborative work promotes and messages activists’ concerns and demands through the media. They will continue to document public events, to develop the voices of prisoners’ families as spokespeople, and to collaborate with other prison justice organizations and prisoner-led human rights campaigns. They are active participants in the Media Committee of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition as well as participants in other aspects of the prisoner support work.

New York State Prisoner Justice Network, Albany, New York

NYSPJN is a network of 40 criminal justice reform/abolition organizations, about 30 individual activist members, and approximately 450 active list-serve members. Since 2009, their mission has been to create a statewide movement for prisoner justice in New York, where there had previously been only separate issue initiatives, mainly based in New York City.

NYSPJN works to mitigate the harms done by the current system of mass incarceration by reducing the use of solitary confinement, closing certain prisons, and changing parole policies and practices to achieve a higher release rate. At the same time, they work to raise for public scrutiny the underlying injustice and fundamentally destructive paradigm of mass incarceration. This includes racial disparities at every level, punishment as ineffective in producing public safety, and prisons as a failed default solution for jobs, housing, and education.