Criminal Justice


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:

Investing in Communities for Public Safety and Restoration

A diverse group of national and state advocates, researchers, criminal justice practitioners, and funders discuss strategies to engage communities in defining their own public safety priorities and in helping more people avoid the revolving door to prison.

Lenore Anderson and Robert Rooks

Rashad Robinson

Julie Stewart

Cherise Fanno Burdeen


Criminal Justice News


Giving People with Criminal Records
a Second Chance

Fighting to break free from the second prison… Full Story


Helping People—and Communities—Thrive After Prison

Colorado has developed a groundbreaking approach to serving those returning from incarceration that is transforming lives, supporting communities, and promoting locally-driven public safety solutions. … Full Story


Women in Prison

A new report by a Public Welfare Foundation grantee examines why the numbers of female and male prisoners are on different trajectories. … Full Story


Promoting Community-led Investments to Stop the Revolving Door to Prison

The Public Welfare Foundation and the Urban Institute brought together a diverse, bipartisan group that is working to promote investments in effective public safety strategies.… Full Story

Criminal Justice Resources

Accounting for Violence: How to Increase Safety and Break Our Failed Reliance on Mass IncarcerationLink

Texas Public Policy Foundation's Report on Texas' Mandatory Sentencing EnhancementsLink

Ending the Era of Mass IncarcerationLink

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