Merriam-Webster named “justice” as its the word of year for 2018. And, while issues of justice were certainly front and center last year, far too often headlines centered more on injustice than justice.
It is my hope that 2019 is marked by our collective efforts to advance a new, transformative vision of justice. That this year we empathize more with the mass human suffering our criminal justice system has caused; and tolerate less the devastating impact this failed social experiment has on families and communities all over the country.
The pervasive reach of our criminal justice system is creating an ever-growing community of those who have been impacted by the system, yet effective services to facilitate their return home remain woefully inadequate.
The scale and severity of our criminal justice system is unmatched by any other developed nation. It disproportionately impacts people of color and costs $80 billion in law enforcement spending and between $55 and $60 billion in lost GDP annually.
It is time to boldly reimagine our approach to criminal justice, moving from wasting billions of dollars on failed prison models to resourcing effective community-based solutions. We must invest in designing better solutions to harm and violence – methodologies that transform the lives of those harmed, improve safety, heal communities, and foster racial equity.
At Public Welfare Foundation, we believe so strongly that restorative and redemptive justice is possible that we are focusing all our efforts moving forward to support the type of reform that is indeed transformative. Over the next two years, we are transitioning to focus solely on catalyzing an approach to justice that is community-led, restorative, and racially just. As a private foundation that has advanced justice and opportunity for people in need for more than 70 years, deepening our focus on justice reform is a moral imperative that breathes life into our mission.
While the criminal justice space is not new to Public Welfare, we are renewing our commitment to fund innovative solutions earlier in their life cycle. For example, investing in emerging organizations like Detroit Justice Center, which is working tirelessly to build a vision of a just city. We will operationalize our investments in target locations, starting right in our hometown of Washington DC, working with communities to drive transformation from multiple angles including policy advocacy, organizing, leadership development, and demonstration projects. We will prioritize investing in the leadership of those most proximate to the intractable social issues facing this nation, not because it is novel, but because it is necessary; voices like Operation Restoration’s Syrita Steib-Martin who leads passionately out of her own experiences to support and guide women as they return home after incarceration. And we will continue to invest in models like Credible Messengers, which engages formerly system-involved people to serve as examples of hope and redemption in their communities.
As we move toward this vision of justice, our team is full of hope. We hope you’ll join us.