CJI's 2015 Request for Proposals

2015 Request for Proposals

CRIMINAL JUSTICE INITIATIVE (CJI) a project of the Solidago Foundation

CJI is requesting proposals from grassroots organizations working to transform the current U.S. criminal justice system.

This year CJI will fund groups that are engaged in strategic movement building efforts that build connections between sectors of the criminal justice movement and/or with other social movements. 


The Criminal Justice Initiative (CJI) began in 2000, born out of a growing concern with prison expansion, mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. The CJI Circle is an innovative grant-making panel comprised of donors, donor-activists and community organizers, some of whom have experienced incarceration. We share authority and a passion for supporting meaningful, transformative and systemic change of the criminal justice system. Understanding the limited funding for progressive criminal justice organizing, this Circle was established to create a new source of support for this critical work. CJI’s mission is to end mass criminalization and mass incarceration in the U.S.

Each year we raise the grant-making funds and convene the Circle for political education and to determine our grant-making focus. The Circle then agrees on the RFP focus and the RFP distribution. We reconvene to evaluate proposals and make grant decisions. Given this process, there is no recurring annual deadline for applications or guarantee of multi-year funding for CJI applicants.

This year the application process is online and does not require an invitation to apply.

CJI’s 2016 Funding Priorities

Criminal justice activists have long been involved in building a grassroots base of support to transform the criminal justice system. In recent years, high profile cases combined with state budget shortfalls have led the media, the public, and elected officials to focus greater attention on police shootings and mass incarceration. CJI wants to build on this momentum to include an end to mass criminalization and increased implementation of alternatives to incarceration.

This year CJI will fund groups that are engaged in strategic movement building efforts that build connections between sectors of the criminal justice movement and other social movements.

Movement Building is the long-term, coordinated effort of individuals and organized groups of people to intentionally spark and sustain a social movement.   Movement builders constantly engage core allies, the public, and people in positions of power to address systemic problems and promote alternative visions or solutions. 

Movement building can strengthen and provide direction during peak movement moments.  In quieter times, movement building plays a crucial role in nurturing leadership, consciousness, and infrastructure.  Movement building is a developmental process that depends on opportunity and conditions.  It includes the historic moment of a fully active social movement, as well as the long-term process that led to it.   —Movement Strategy Center

Successful strategies should promote new visions and viable solutions for long term change, while offering new approaches to challenging the status quo and press for change. They should also develop community leadership through increased political awareness, skills building, and/or healing practices.  

General Funding Criteria

CJI will only fund the following: 

  • Organizations with a demonstrated commitment to providing leadership opportunities to people who have been incarcerated (defined as confinement in prison or jail; a juvenile, immigrant, or military detention facility, or a mental institution), and those who have been directly impacted by state violence and/or the criminal justice system; including their families;
  • Organizations focused on achieving community change through organizing, including changes in policies, institutions, or other systems of control.
  • CJI may support organizing work within groups that also provide opportunities for healing. However, CJI will ONLY fund groups that provide culturally appropriate healing programs that are connected to organizing work.  We believe that healing traumatized people is a pre-requisite for developing leadership amongst communities most impacted by state violence and the criminal justice system and to prevent the cycle of incarceration from continuing.
  • Organizations with budgets up to approximately $500,000*. Organizations with much larger budgets should not apply.
  • While we fund new and previous grantees, CJI will ONLY consider previous grantees that have provided a CJI Progress Report with information about their most-recent CJI-funded work.

*We understand that budgets can vary slightly from year to year, so organizations with budgets slightly larger than $500,00 can still apply.

New Funding Criteria

  • Organizations that have received 5 or more CJI grants are now REQUIRED to complete a short Long-term Grantee Evaluation Form. This must accompany the organization’s application and proposal.
  • Organizations MUST meet the application deadline with all their required materials. In the past, CJI has been more lenient than most about enforcing its application deadline. This year and going forward, due to an open process, in order to accommodate an increased number of proposals due, CJI will hold applicants strictly to the application deadline.
  • This year CJI has an online application process here through Submittable.com. You can access our applications here

Process and Timeline

An organization wishing to apply to CJI should complete the Eligibility Quiz online. If there are technical questions about the application process, a Submittable staff person is there to help you. Please contact Submittable's support at support@submittable.com or (855) 467-8264. 

If you have questions about your organization’s eligibility for a grant or the meaning of a question on the application, you are encouraged to reach out to Aleah Bacquie Vaughn at aleahb@solidago.org well BEFORE the deadline.

  •  All applications are read and reviewed by a Pre-screen Team, comprised of one staff person, one donor and one activist. Those that fit the criteria are then passed on to the members of the Circle to read. 
  • Applications must attach all the required documents such as budgets, tax-exempt letter, board demographics, etc. to be considered.
  • Former grantees MUST include a completed Progress Report to be considered for renewed funding.
  • Organizations that have received 5 CJI grants MUST also complete a Long-term Grantee Evaluation Form to be considered.  

The deadline for this application is THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2015. Grant decisions will be made by the CJI Circle, which convenes in late February of 2016. Grant announcements will be made in early March of 2016, with grants awards soon after.