Spark Justice Fund Awards Nearly $2 Million to Organizations to Transform Pretrial Justice  Across the Country

April 2, 2020

The Spark Justice Fund is excited to announce we have awarded $1.9 million to 10 organizations transforming pretrial justice and building power in communities most impacted by incarceration. Grants include support for general operating as well as capacity building.  

The Fund launched in 2019 with a long-term vision of supporting grassroots organizing groups that are ending money bail and unjust pretrial detention policies. In doing so, grantees will ultimately significantly reduce jail populations, decriminalize poverty, and reduce disparities for low-income communities of color, including for women of color and other marginalized populations.

“One of the reasons we are proud to be a donor to the Spark Justice Fund is its focus on transformative, long-lasting change that is deeply connected to the needs of people impacted by incarceration and criminalization,” said Jesenia Santana, Program Officer at the NoVo Foundation. “We are particularly excited that many Fund partners center the particular needs of women and girls impacted by criminalization and who organize with an explicit gender lens grounding their work.” 

Grantees represent all regions of the United States; they are based in Arizona, California, Illinois, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. In some jurisdictions, reforms are underway and require community oversight on implementation, while in others, political circumstances have created an opening for community organizing to make an impact.

“The need for pretrial justice reform in Mississippi is unparalleled, and now is the time to push for change,” said Rukia Lumumba, Executive Director at the People’s Advocacy Institute. “With enough pressure, it is possible to change the minds of our elected officials. This is the ideal time for the Mississippi Bail Fund Collective to educate Mississippians about the harms of the cash bail system and advocate for change.”

The Fund’s grantees are focused on ending cash bail, and intentionally combine bail reform efforts with campaigns to end punitive pretrial practices, reduce spending on incarceration and increase investment in community-driven programs, increase civic engagement among people impacted by incarceration, create community oversight over tools like pretrial risk assessments, and increase programs like cite and release to reduce arrests. By employing diverse and complementary strategies, these groups can win long-term, holistic reforms.

Watch this video featuring Mano Amiga in Texas, an organization addressing the drivers of Hays County’s increasing jail population, including pushing for bail reform and expanded  “cite and release” policies so that individuals are not arrested or jailed for prolonged periods of time.

In this grantmaking cycle, the Fund is also supporting one group, the Tucson Second Chance Community Bail Fund, to pilot strategies  for countering risk assessments that are being employed in countless jurisdictions across the country, at a time when the field is increasingly recognizing these tools can exacerbate racial disparities.  

The Fund also made $65,000 in discretionary grants to support the Coalition to End Money Bail, coordinated by the Chicago Community Bond Fund, for organizing to end cash bail in Illinois, and to the New York Black Freedom Project, housed at the Brooklyn Movement Center, to defend against rollbacks to New York State’s new bail reform law.

“We believe this political moment affords us the opportunity to make our voices heard, increase law enforcement accountability, and develop our own demands about the reforms we want to see in the county,” said Lola Rainey, Director of the Tucson Second Chance Community Bail Fund. “By continuing our bail fund work while also advocating for reinvestment back into the community, we will win short term victories and long-term change.”

Read more about the Fund’s second cohort of grantees:

Californians United for a Responsible Budget’s (CURB) mission is the divestment from carceral systems, the diversion of carceral funds to scale-up community-based services, and overall decarceration in the state.

Mano Amiga’s mission is to educate, advocate, coordinate and organize alongside immigrants and others in the rural I-35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin, to advance liberatory change.

The Michigan Liberation Education Fund works to raise awareness about the crisis of mass incarceration, mass policing, anti-Blackness, and issues of structural racism and poverty in Michigan.

The People’s Advocacy Institute in Mississippi partners with community members to provide education, training, coaching, investigation, research, advocacy and legal services to assist in defining the structural inequities that cause harm, and together develop new policies and practices that reduce oppression, and foster self-determination and a more unbiased system.

Out for Justice in Maryland mission is to engage formerly incarcerated individuals, families and friends through grassroots outreach and community events; educate member base and communities on the legislative process; and empower those impacted by the criminal justice system to utilize their voices and experiences to enact structural and tangible change.

Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation’s mission is to assist low-income people of color in the Chicago Southland to build power, then subsequently leverage that power to fight for their own interest and liberation.

Silicon Valley De-Bug’s mission is to serve as a platform for voice and leadership of marginalized communities- youth and families of color, primarily low-income people, immigrants, and incarcerated people in Silicon Valley, California.

Tucson Second Chance Community Bail Fund’s mission is to end the use of cash money bail, pretrial risk assessments and other state methods of criminalizing the poor; and to end pretrial detention in Pima County. 

Voices of Community Activists & Leaders’ (VOCAL-NY) mission is to build a movement of low-income people dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and homelessness in New York. 

Women on the Rise is a grassroots organization in Georgia led by and for formerly incarcerated women of color and women targeted and/or impacted by the criminal legal system to heal and empower themselves, one another, and their communities by demanding justice, dignity, and liberation for all.

The Spark Justice Fund is a donor collaborative supported by Art for Justice, Ford Foundation, Galaxy Gives, Heising-Simons Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, NoVo Foundation, Kelson Foundation, LoudHound Foundation and Anonymous Donors.