“Impossible,” we were told 15 years ago when CJI began it’s work to end mass incarceration. I am reminded of the words of Nelson Mandela—the most famous formerly incarcerated person in the world—who said, “Everything is impossible until it is done.” I think of this whenever I feel overwhelmed with how much needs to change for our society to be truly equitable and just.
Looking at the tremendous movement gains in the past year alone, no one can deny that we have advanced from protest to politics. We have moved the majority of Americans from seeing the criminal legal system as a good system with some problems, to one that is fundamentally flawed and not providing anything that resembles justice. Now the question we are asked is, “But what is a better system? How do we get there?” Now is the time to “make the vision plain.”
Can we collectively envision a system whose roots are not deeply embedded in white supremacy, classism, sexism, homophobia and gender oppression? Yes. We can build a system that seeks restorative justice instead of vengeance, includes diversion programs that treat illness instead of punishing people for it, and teaches children true safety practices that do not rely on police. CJI’s grantees this year are proving that the vision can be realized. From campaigns to redirect funds from prisons to jobs programs, to preventing the separation of families, to centering those most impacted in creating solutions, CJI grantees are creating a world in which we are all allowed to thrive. We hope you’re as inspired by their work as we are.
—Aleah Bacquie Vaughn, Director of CJI
To read about the organizations CJI funded this year, go here.