Nearly 100,000 people in Michigan are currently in prison, on parole, or on probation. Among those, roughly 40,000 individuals are incarcerated in state prisons, including the elderly and many who are living with a mental illness.
Another 15,000 people are in Michigan jails, with most awaiting trial. Significant racial disparities exist at every stage of justice-system contact, with African Americans comprising over half of the state’s prison population.
The Michigan Justice Fund – a partnership between the Community Foundation and 13 local and national foundations – aims to support justice policy reform and address racial disparities in the justice system.
It also creates structures that help those transitioning out of jails and prisons build successful careers and strong families after their release.
To assist in the development of the grantmaking strategy and roadmap necessary to advance justice reform, the Michigan Justice Fund convened a group of 26 organizations working across diverse justice system issues and policies.
The outcome of that work resulted in the creation of three primary goals including strengthening Michigan’s funding, policies, and practices to support economic mobility and the overall success of people with criminal records; reducing the reliance on confinement and adjudication; and building a movement for communities to shape policies and funding.
The Michigan Justice Fund recently made its first round of grants to organizations across the state of Michigan that support projects ranging from a research partnership designed to examine prosecutorial decision-making impact on racial minorities, to a program that provides job readiness training and work opportunities for returning citizens.
Moving forward, the work will continue to strengthen the capacity of nonprofits working for justice reform, increase funder collaboration on supporting justice-impacted communities, and shift public perceptions about people who have been incarcerated.