In response to the recent unrest following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray after his arrest by Baltimore police, the Open Society Institute-Baltimore has announced the creation of the Baltimore Justice Fund.
The fund will support interventions focused on improving police accountability and police-community relationships, reducing the number of Baltimoreans caught up in the criminal system without compromising public safety, and engaging Marylanders, especially young people, in advocating for programs and policies designed to increase opportunity and racial justice. Since 1998, OSI-Baltimore has worked to address the root causes of three intertwined problems in the city and the state: drug addiction, an overreliance on incarceration, and obstacles that keep youth from succeeding, both inside and outside the classroom. According to the foundation, those seemingly intractable issues are parts of a whole, coalescing in ways that create the conditions that led to Gray's fatal injury while in police custody and the subsequent anger, protests, and violence by residents of the city.
"The recent unrest stemmed immediately from the community's broken relationship with the police and the treatment of people in Baltimore's most vulnerable communities," said OSI-Baltimore director Diana Morris. "While these problems are common to many cities across the country, all of us in Baltimore have an urgent need to work together to create policies, practices and relationships that are respectful, transparent and fair in our city.
"At OSI-Baltimore, we know that it is impossible to address issues of injustice without also addressing the structural inequalities that hold too many of our residents in poverty and block opportunity. And we know that there is a growing number of people, in Baltimore and beyond, who want to join us in addressing these root causes to bring about real and lasting solutions. By setting up the Baltimore Justice Fund, we seek to widen the ways in which people can get involved in the city's future, as well as provide resources to deepen our collective work."