Coalition Boosts Economic Mobility Within Criminal Justice System

A new coalition, The Justice and Mobility Fund, is heading an effort to help lift the economic fortunes and provide opportunities to people previously impacted by the criminal justice system. The coalition starts with an initial investment of $250 million, $145 million of which has already been distributed to nine organizations.

It is a collaboration launched by New York City-based philanthropy model Blue Meridian Partners, the Ford Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies.

The priorities range from pre-arrest diversion to training that will allow individuals to re-enter the workplace to guidance for generating a living wage. Actions funded include policy development and advocacy, direct services to individuals and changing the narrative of individuals affected. Efforts will focus on states with fewer opportunities for economic mobility, comparatively high incarceration rates, significant racial disparities and inclinations for criminal justice reform.

Roughly 77 million people in the United States (approximately one out of every three adults) have criminal records, and millions more interact with the criminal justice system every year, according to a statement from the Fund’s leaders. Black and other communities of color are disproportionately affected.

“Mass criminalization and incarceration is one of the most critical civil rights issues of our times. For our nation to rebuild equitably and ensure no community is left behind, we must tackle the immense, unjust barriers to opportunity imposed by our present system of justice,” Blue Meridian Partners CEO Nancy Roob said via a statement. “We’re grateful to work with the Ford Foundation and Schusterman Family Philanthropies to provide the long-term investment that social sector leaders need to scale solutions proven to help justice-involved people climb the economic ladder and build safer, stronger communities.”

The organizations that have already received Justice and Mobility Fund support include:

Alliance for Safety and Justice, Oakland, Calif., which advocates for state-based policies and system reforms geared toward replacing the need for incarceration with prevention and rehabilitation solutions;

The Center for Employment Opportunities, New York City, which offers employment services to people recently released from incarceration in more than 30 U.S. cities while also advocating for long-term, sustainable change within the criminal legal system;

Center for Policing Equity, New Haven, Conn., which uses data-driven approaches to identify and reduce racial disparities in law enforcement, and offers new thinking regarding public safety models;

The Clean Slate Initiative, which advocates on behalf of automatically clearing eligible criminal records in states across America and helping eliminate barriers to education, jobs, housing, and public benefits for affected individuals;

Jobs for the Future, Boston, Mass., which helps employers hire people with criminal records;

Michigan Justice Fund, Detroit, which aims to reduce incarceration and help individuals reenter society in southeast Michigan;

Oklahoma Justice Fund, Oklahoma City, which strengthens employment pathways and advances a statewide policy agenda to reduce incarceration and increase economic mobility in Oklahoma; and,

The Vera Institute of Justice, New York City, which builds anti-racist justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities

More information about the Justice and Mobility Fund and its investees is available here: https://www.bluemeridian.org/funds/the-justice-and-mobility-fund/