After reflecting on the lessons learned since our launch 2 years ago, the Spark Justice Fund has refined its focus to better meet the needs and momentum of the movement to end mass incarceration. Our original mission centered around ending cash bail and unjust pretrial detention policies. Since then, we have witnessed tenacious movement leaders tackle multiple aspects of the carceral system while piloting innovative community safety programs. We understand that liberation is not truly realized through one single policy or piece of legislation, but through simultaneous fights coalescing to deconstruct systems that inflict violence on BIPOC communities and redirect resources into life-saving and community-centric visions of safety.
The directors of community bail funds in Chicago and Colorado (both Spark Justice grantees), as well as Connecticut and Massachusetts, lay out the argument for an expansive view of pretrial justice well in their article Moving from Ending Money Bail to Demanding Pretrial Freedom. They write:
We know that money bail is not and has never been the entire or only problem. As tempting as it is to believe that ending money bail is the cure to pretrial injustice, we must recognize it as merely one piece of a much larger system of racialized social control. If money bail were eliminated tomorrow, the state would maintain many other insidious ways to punish people awaiting trial, such as through home confinement, financial penalties, surveillance and monitoring, allegations of “violations,” and jailing through outright denial of release. (credits: Moving from Ending Money Bail to Demanding Pretrial Freedom)
The Spark Justice Fund will focus on supporting grassroots organizing and power-building groups to decarcerate, close jails, and advance transformative visions of pretrial justice in the communities most impacted by incarceration. The fund will prioritize its grantmaking to support grassroots organizations advancing one or more of the following strategies:
- Decarcerative policy reform and/or policy implementation efforts to end cash bail and other key policy drivers of jail populations
- Campaigns to close jails or stop jail expansion and drive investment into the communities most impacted by incarceration
- Creation of innovative, community-driven alternatives to pretrial detention
This year, the Spark Justice Fund is excited to announce we have awarded more than $2 million to 15 organizations around the country working to decarcerate, redirect resources from jails to community, and ultimately transform the vision of community-led safety.
This year’s grantees represent various regions around the country including Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Nevada, North Carolina, and Maryland.
The Spark Justice Fund also moved $226,000 in rapid response grants to the Texas Jail Project, Equity and Transformation, Life After Release, Emancipate North Carolina, and United Fort Worth for their work around decarceration of people with serious mental illness, trauma, and developmental and intellectual disabilities as well as piloting universal basic income systems for formerly incarcerated folks.
Read more about the Fund’s 2021 grantees below:
- Decarcerate Sacramento, a coalition working to end jail expansions, decrease jail populations, and shift county funds away from policing and incarceration towards community-based systems of care that actually keep the public safe.
- Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, a diverse, grassroots coalition of individuals and organizations from across New Orleans who have come together to shrink the size of the jail and improve the conditions of confinement for those held in detention in Orleans Parish.
- Action St. Louis, a grassroots racial justice organization that seeks to build political power for Black communities in the St. Louis region. Action St. Louis builds campaigns that leverages organizing, communications, advocacy and direct action to mitigate harm against our community while fighting for long term transformation.
- Free Hearts, a Tennessee state-wide organization led by formerly incarcerated women that provides support, education, and advocacy in organizing families impacted by incarceration, with the ultimate goals of reuniting families and keeping families together.
- Families for Justice as Healing organizes formerly incarcerated women to join the movement toward creating community wellness alternatives to incarceration that heals and rebuilds families and communities.
- Ohio Organizing Collaborative builds transformative relational power with everyday Ohioans for statewide social, racial, and economic justice.
- Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project is building a youth-led movement to end the practice of trying and incarcerating young people as adults and create a world without youth incarceration.
- Texas Organizing Project organizes Black and Latino communities in Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve.
- Southerners on New Ground, a home for LGBTQ liberation across all lines of race, class, abilities, age, culture, gender, and sexuality in the South. We build, sustain, and connect a southern regional base of LGBTQ people in order to transform the region through strategic projects and campaigns developed in response to the current conditions in our communities.
- Mass Liberation Nevada disrupts harm created by colonization and white supremacy that is sustained through the criminal legal system, while simultaneously building systems and structures that support a world of centered accountability; not rooted in punishment, and filled with revolutionary trust and dependence on ourselves.
- Texas Jail Project empowers incarcerated people in county jails by lifting their voices through stories, testimonies, and community building. We hold jails as well as the entire criminal punishment system accountable—informing the public and lawmakers about civil rights violations, structural racism, and the punitive attitudes underlying the mistreatment and medical neglect inside Texas county jails.
- Equity and Transformation (EAT), founded by and for formerly incarcerated and marginalized Black people in Chicago, EAT strives to uplift the faces, voices, and power of individuals that operate within the informal economy.
- Life After Release, a formerly incarcerated women-led organization in the DMV area (DC-Maryland-Virginia). We are organizing to build a post-conviction movement where we have the right to challenge our convictions and the system responsible for convicting us in the first place.
- Emancipate NC was founded on the knowledge that mass incarceration and structural racism harm all of us. Prison is state-sponsored violence. We are all complicit in its harms. As an organization, we are dedicated to shifting the narrative on racialized mass incarceration through community education and mobilization.
- United Fort Worth is a multiracial grassroots community organization that actively works to challenge discriminatory policy and systems of oppression, while empowering Black, Latinx and other historically marginalized communities to join the fight for justice through collective action.
Join our efforts to end mass incarceration
To learn more about partnering with Borealis Philanthropy’s Spark Justice Fund and the powerful work of grassroots groups and organizers, please contact Spark Justice at Sparkjustice@borealisphilanthropy.org.