Philanthropic intermediary Borealis Philanthropy has announced the launch of a donor collaborative in support of efforts to advance criminal justice reform.
Launched with support from the Art for Justice Fund; Galaxy Gives; the Ford, Heising-Simons, MacArthur, NoVo, and Open Society foundations; and a number of anonymous donors, the Spark Justice Fund will work to advance efforts to end money bail and advance pretrial justice reforms, decriminalize poverty, and eliminate disparities for low-income communities of color; strengthen the capacity of state-based and local grassroots organizations leading the movement for reform; and elevate the leadership of those most directly affected by the criminal justice system. In support of its mission, the fund will provide multiyear general operating grants, organizational development and capacity building assistance, and peer-learning opportunities.
Inaugural grants totaling more than $1.7 million were awarded to eight organizations. Recipients include Action St. Louis, which is working to strengthen the engagement of black voters in the St. Louis metro area; Families for Justice as Healing in Roxbury, Massachusetts, which organizes for changes in policy and practice that transfer power and resources back to communities; Free Hearts, an organization in Tennessee led by economically disadvantaged and formerly incarcerated women that is working to define and take ownership of community-based alternatives to the bail system; and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, which is focused on issues ranging from criminal justice reform to voting rights.
Other grantees include the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), which advocates for fundamental reforms around criminal justice and structural racism, economic and gender inequality, immigration reform, and climate justice solutions; Southerners on New Ground (SONG) in Atlanta, which works to connect feminist, black, brown, immigrant, poor, and working-class LGBTQ leaders in the South; the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund, which organizes African-American and Latinx communities in Dallas, Harris, and Bexar counties; and the Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project in Philadelphia, which is building a youth-led movement aimed at ending the practice of trying and incarcerating young people as adults.
"The increasing momentum for bail reform right now is an opportunity for us to win long-lasting, groundbreaking change," said Helena Huang, project director for the Art for Justice Fund at the Ford Foundation. "The organizations we are supporting understand the needs of their communities, are experts on their local context, and have key insights on the criminal justice system based on their own experiences. They are positioned to seize this moment and win a new vision of pretrial justice."