The Justice and Mobility Fund Makes Investments to Create Economic Mobility for Justice-Impacted Individuals
One in three American adults has a criminal record. It’s a staggering statistic. To create an equitable future where everyone in the US has access to economic and social mobility, we must support pathways to opportunity for the nation’s 77 million justice-impacted people.
For this reason, Blue Meridian has partnered with the Ford Foundation and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies on the Justice and Mobility Fund since 2019. This collaboration brings significant new resources to the criminal justice field with a particular focus on solutions that seek to break barriers to opportunity. The organizations we invest in work at key touchpoints along the spectrum of system involvement through direct service, public education and policy work, and more, ultimately seeking to reduce incarceration and mitigate lasting, negative impacts.
While preventing unnecessary incarceration is an important piece of this work, it is also essential that we consider how to give the millions of Americans who have served their time a fair chance for stability and mobility. This is especially important for Black people and other communities of color who are disproportionately and unfairly impacted due to historic, systemic racism. The current system impedes reintegration with society, since having a criminal record limits educational pursuits, disrupts housing, and narrows access to employment and public benefits. Essentially, the collateral consequences for having a criminal record can last a lifetime as well as impact future generations.
Since its launch, the Justice and Mobility Fund has made significant investments in evidence-based solutions that dismantle barriers to achievement for justice-impacted people. The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), for example, provides immediate transitional work with daily pay for people recently released from prison, as well as more comprehensive wraparound services like skills training and advanced certifications. CEO’s programs provide a bridge to short- and long-term employment for justice-impacted people, helping build a foundation for success. In addition, they conceived and implemented the Returning Citizen Stimulus (RCS) initiative during the pandemic to provide immediate financial support to people returning from incarceration at a time where stay-at-home orders made them unable to work. Preliminary evaluations indicate that giving returning citizens a series of stipends, totaling as much as $2,750, creates long-term engagements with reentry service providers and strong job retention.
“The Returning Citizen Stimulus allowed over 10,000 recipients in 7 states the opportunity to decide what they needed most. Beyond meeting critical basic needs, RCS built trust and showed the power of autonomy. We are excited that several states are now considering cash assistance as a viable tool to support reentry.” Learn more.
– Sam Schaeffer, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Employment Opportunities
Creating opportunity for this community also includes supporting employers to adopt Fair Chance Hiring practices, which is why the Justice and Mobility Fund supported Jobs for the Future to design and launch the Center for Justice and Economic Advancement. The Center collaborates with employers to educate them on best practices for hiring and retaining people with records, strengthening inclusive practices, and helping meet demand in a tight labor market by unlocking untapped talent.
Through our philanthropic investments, we seek to increase the impact, reach, and influence – the key component of scale – of solutions that work. To help additional organizations focused on opportunity after incarceration prepare for this type of transformative scaling, the Justice and Mobility Fund recently invested a total of $34.5 million in six strategies. These organizations work to meet justice-impacted people where they are and mitigate the damage that engagement with the system causes.
Overview of Our Recent Investments
With a national affiliate network in 19 states, OIC of America (OICA) delivers workforce development for economically disadvantaged and unemployed people. Their high-quality skills training aims to provide more pathways to the middle class for Black communities — empowering them to achieve productive and fulfilling lives.
The Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) works to end mass incarceration in California. ARC provides a support network and comprehensive reentry services for current and formerly incarcerated people. For example, their pre-apprenticeship training creates pathways to the middle class for justice-impacted people.
“Anti-Recidivism Coalition assists formerly incarcerated people in obtaining union careers in the building trades. This resource directly reduces recidivism, enhances public safety, and breaks the cycle of poverty. The Justice and Mobility Fund’s investment enables us to identify pathways to scale and ultimately deliver this solution to across the state. I am truly excited about this incredible partnership that will greatly help us in pursuit of our mission to end mass incarceration in California.”
– Sam Lewis, President and CEO of Anti-Recidivism Coalition
STRIVE works toward an inclusive economy where everyone can achieve upward mobility and financial empowerment for themselves and their families. They provide pathways to life-changing careers and opportunities through comprehensive professional training, intensive personal support, and self-empowerment for those who face societal barriers to advancement.
A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL) disrupts systems of oppression by developing reentry resources to help justice-impacted women heal, excel, and lead. These services include housing, case management, and pro bono legal services for people rebuilding their lives after incarceration.
“A New Way of Life has been supporting women as they leave prison for 25 years. We have remained dedicated to our mission, despite being previously under-resourced. It is with much excitement that we welcome the support of the Justice and Mobility Fund to fill the funding gap and support women to reclaim their place and voice in communities across this country.”
– Susan Burton, Founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project
With an expansive curriculum, job placement services, and enthusiastic community, FreeWorld connects formerly incarcerated people with high-wage jobs. Ultimately, FreeWorld hopes their mission — knocking down barriers to employment — will help eliminate recidivism and enable returning citizens to lead full lives.
Rubicon Programs equips participants with the tools to overcome the systemic barriers to economic mobility with a focus in four key areas: assets, income, wellness, and connections. In addition to direct service, Rubicon partners on advocacy and system change projects to dismantle inequitable systems.
The Justice and Mobility Fund is proud to partner with these six social sector leaders as they prepare their strategies for significant scaling and create opportunity after incarceration. Of course, the impacts of interaction with the criminal justice system are greater than any one organization can address alone. We hope that by investing in a range of solutions working at key touchpoints to support justice-impacted individuals, we can build a more equitable nation for everyone.