Commentary: Clean Slate Act a chance for a true life after prison
Jan 23, 2022
The Justice and Mobility Fund is a philanthropic collaboration that aims to boost economic mobility and improve the life trajectories of people impacted by the criminal justice system.
The Justice and Mobility Fund seeks to scale the impact, reach, and influence of solutions to problems caused by interaction with the criminal justice system, both nationwide and in targeted regions. Reducing convictions and incarceration and mitigating their negative downstream effects is critical to giving people – especially Black people and other people of color, who are disproportionately impacted — greater access to jobs, educational opportunities, and housing that will help break the cycle of poverty and injustice.
Mass incarceration is one of the most critical civil rights issues of our time. 77 million Americans have criminal records and millions more interact with the justice system each year. Involvement in the criminal justice system severely disrupts economic stability and access to opportunity for individuals, families, and whole communities. Arrests and incarceration can limits people’s ability to get an education, maintain stable housing, connect to employment opportunities and public benefits, and more. This cycle of poverty and injustice is particularly devastating for Black people and other people of color who are disproportionately affected by the justice system. Today, these challenges are further compounded by the effects of COVID-19 and America’s entrenched patterns of racial injustice and over-criminalization, which exact a devastating toll on these same communities. Despite reform efforts, insufficient attention is paid to developing and scaling interventions that provide economic opportunity for people affected by the system.
Americans have criminal records and millions more interact with the justice system each year
The Justice and Mobility Fund brings significant resources to the field in order to achieve criminal justice reforms that boost economic mobility, advance racial equity, and scale the most effective solutions. We invest the long-term, flexible capital and provide the comprehensive support that visionary social sector leaders need to build capacity and make lasting impact. Working at key touchpoints along the spectrum of justice system involvement, from diversion to re-entry and beyond, our investees pursue significant, sustained changes that strengthen the criminal justice infrastructure. Their work encompasses multiple interventions, including direct service, policy and advocacy work, evidence-building, and efforts to change the cultural narrative about criminality and justice.
Additionally, the Justice and Mobility Fund is deploying an employment strategy to dismantle barriers to the job market for people with criminal records. Our investments prepare individuals for employment and career pathways and catalyze demand among employers to hire, retain, and advance people with criminal records who face inordinately steep barriers to economic mobility.
The pursuit of racial equity informs every facet of this work, including sourcing, investing strategies, and evaluation and data collection.
initial dollars committed to scaling nationwide and community-specific interventions, including COVID-19 crisis relief
The Justice and Mobility Fund is a collaboration launched by The Ford Foundation and Blue Meridian Partners with support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. Leveraging Blue Meridian’s pooled funding and performance-based investing model and the Ford Foundation’s expertise in social justice grantmaking, the Justice and Mobility Fund presents the opportunity to make investments that can change the lives of generations. We welcome additional funders to join the partnership as we continue to innovate.
The Ford Foundation centers on belief in the inherent dignity of all people. Around the world, too many people are excluded from the political, economic, and social institutions that shape their lives. Across eight decades, The Ford Foundation’s mission has sought to reduce poverty and injustice, strengthen democratic values, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.Visit Website
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies is a global organization that seeks to improve lives, strengthen communities and reduce inequality. Their philanthropic vision is grounded in a commitment to pursue justice, repair the world and treat all people with dignity and civility. They invest in efforts to improve public education in the United States, strengthen the Jewish people and Israel, and address the needs of marginalized individuals and communities.Visit Website
Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) works to replace over-incarceration with new safety solutions rooted in prevention, rehabilitation, and support for crime victims and people living with past convictions. ASJ organizes key constituencies, builds campaigns and coalitions, and cultivates state leaders and other influential decision-makers as champions of reform. These efforts have helped reduce incarceration and increase access to services and supports for communities disproportionately engaged with the justice system. ASJ is focusing on 10 states with the highest incarceration levels in order to drive effective reforms that reduce incarceration and boost investments in alternatives focused on shared safety for all.
The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) advocates for a more inclusive economic recovery and works to break the cycle of reincarceration by helping individuals returning from prison successfully transition back into their communities. By providing immediate paid employment, skills training, and wraparound vocational supports, CEO helps justice impacted individuals with short- and long-term employment needs in order to build a foundation for success. Additionally, CEO seeks to break barriers to employment by working with employers to promote inclusive hiring. The Justice and Mobility Fund also supported CEO’s Returning Citizens Stimulus which delivered a three-month stipend to 10,000+ people returning home from incarceration following releases due to the COVID-19 crisis.
One in three Americans has a criminal record, which acts as a lifelong barrier to economic mobility. The costs of having a criminal record – including restrictions on employment, housing, education, and occupational licensing – fall disproportionately on low-income and Black and Latino/a communities, perpetuating poverty and racial inequity. Currently, tens of millions of Americans are eligible for record clearance, yet the process for doing so is typically costly and extremely cumbersome for the individual, resulting in most eligible people not benefitting from record clearance. Working with state partners, the Clean Slate Initiative advances policies to automate record clearance for all eligible criminal records and expand the range of records that can be cleared, with the goal of increasing economic and social opportunity for millions of Americans.
Individuals with criminal records face significant barriers to employment—an issue which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. JFF is a national nonprofit organization that drives change in the American workforce and education systems so that people of all backgrounds can achieve economic advancement. In order to expand opportunities for those impacted by the criminal justice system and ensure an equitable economic recovery for all Americans, JFF is engaging with employers to identify the critical levers that can unlock demand for hiring people with criminal records and strengthen inclusive hiring practices for people with convictions.
Justice system involvement carries devastating lifelong consequences, impeding social and economic mobility for individuals and whole communities. Today, the United States is the most incarcerated country in the world, and its criminal legal and immigration systems disproportionately target low-income, Black, and Latino/a Americans. Operating for nearly 60 years, the Vera Institute of Justice works to create antiracist justice systems and develop ideas, research, and analysis to fight mass incarceration and end racial disparities. Vera partners with directly impacted people and government officials at all levels to build systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities.
Center for Policing Equity (CPE) re-envisions new models of public safety and targeted services addressing violence that enable communities to thrive, as well as promotes data-driven approaches that reduce racial disparities in law enforcement that disproportionately affects Black and Brown Americans and limits their economic mobility. A research and action organization, CPE uses data-driven approaches to social justice and science to create levers for social, economic, cultural and policy change. By right-sizing and right-purposing policing, CPE seeks to build public safety systems that are just, equitable, and non-racist. Additionally, CPE empowers vulnerable communities to engage with and shape their public safety systems, thereby promoting economic mobility and helping to maintain trust between communities and public safety systems. The Justice and Mobility Fund’s investment in CPE will support their strategic vision for reforming policing and improving community safety.
The Michigan Justice Fund is a collaborative of local and national funders that seeks to stem the flow of individuals into the youth and criminal justice systems, support the investment of public dollars to community-driven alternatives to incarceration, and ensure those who are returning home after incarceration receive the support they need to flourish. The Michigan Justice Fund is implementing a strategic plan focused on supporting the economic mobility and overall success of Michiganders with criminal records, reducing reliance on confinement and adjudication, and building a movement for communities to shape justice policies and funding.
The Oklahoma Justice Fund aims to significantly shift the criminal justice landscape in Oklahoma – one of the most incarcerated states in the nation – by scaling the reform infrastructure in the state and creating the platform necessary to unlock transformative change. The Fund is implementing a strategic plan focused on increasing economic opportunity for justice-impacted Oklahomans through innovations in policy, programs, and practices and transforming justice systems through community power-building and narrative change.
Major social issues of our time – such as criminal justice reform – are heavily influenced by coverage in mass media, including film. One Community’s Represent Justice campaign is working to shift culture and public opinion of incarcerated individuals and increase awareness and engagement around racial bias and criminal justice reform. Capitalizing on the film Just Mercy, the Represent Justice campaign seeks to reach people across the political spectrum and in a variety of settings, including schools, churches, and prisons, to create public demand for a fair legal system, dignity for system-impacted communities, and an end to extreme sentencing and mass incarceration.
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