The Chronicle of Philanthropy published an op-ed by our Criminal Justice Reform Initiatives Director Katayoon Majd and Program Associate Jennel (Puzzle) Nesbitt about the importance of investing in the leadership of people impacted by bail and incarceration.

In the op-ed, Katayoon and Puzzle highlight some of the grantees of our new Spark Justice Fund, and discuss how more philanthropic investment in the bold and innovative leadership of people impacted by the criminal justice system can help communities build power so they can win many more victories. The Spark Justice Fund is a new donor collaborative supporting organizations to end money bail, advance pretrial justice reform, and build power in communities most impacted by incarceration.

Read an excerpt from their piece:

“That’s why today Borealis Philanthropy is announcing $1.7 million in awards through a new donor collaborative, the Spark Justice Fund, to eight grassroots groups. They are pushing not only to end money bail but also to advance other ideas to curb the number of people who are incarcerated, such as decriminalizing some offenses and requiring pretrial release in certain cases.

During the time that they are imprisoned, some people think about how to make sure that no one else faces the harms they have suffered. This has led to invaluable insights on the criminal-justice system and on needs in their communities — the type of expertise that is necessary to develop a transformative vision of justice, to identify policy changes that advance such a vision, and to build smart, strategic campaigns to win change.

Community-led groups also ensure that after policy victories, government officials carry out new approaches properly, long after lawmakers, the news media, and others have shifted their attention elsewhere.

To help create policy proposals, the grantees reach out to people who have been incarcerated or otherwise affected by bail. For example, Southerners on New Ground, an organizer of Black Mama’s Bail Out, is mobilizing members across the South to end money bail and to demand that municipalities stop spending tax dollars on jails  and other punitive institutions, and instead spend more on community-based solutions, such as programs that match people facing criminal charges with services that would help ensure that they show up for court appearances.”

Read the entire op-ed here.