More than two million people are incarcerated in the United States – the largest criminal justice system-involved population in the world. More than 80 percent of the 1.6 million in prisons are sentenced and housed in the states. The number has historically been driven, in large part, by harsh sentencing laws that impose excessively long sentences, and by ineffective probation and parole policies and practices. A stunning 60 percent of the people in prison are racial and ethnic minorities.
This approach is not only unsustainable, it does not protect communities. Locking up more people – disproportionately people of color – for greater lengths of time, and later releasing them with little access to reentry programs, rehabilitation and drug and related treatment services, has not made our streets safe. It also comes with great human and fiscal costs. “Tough on crime” policies have devastated communities from which the incarcerated come, splitting families apart and depriving people of the basic tools they need to stay out of the criminal justice system and live stable, productive lives.
The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Program supports groups that are working to end the overincarceration of adults in the United States while also aiming to reduce racial disparities. In particular, the Program makes grants primarily to state-based groups that are working to:
- Reduce state incarceration levels and racial disparities through reforms in sentencing, charging, and supervision policies and procedures.
- Advance the redirection and prioritization of state and local resources toward targeted investments that support system-involved individuals in their communities, through research and strategic thought leadership.