Across the country, amid protests against police violence and vehement calls for social justice, Americans are engaging in conversations about how and where racial inequities are harming — and have historically harmed — communities of color.
One place where those racial biases are most overt, especially in Black and brown communities, is in the criminal justice system.
In Michigan, about 135,000 people are incarcerated or under a form of criminal justice supervision. Of that group, African-Americans are three times more likely than whites to be included, and numerous studies have shown that African-Americans are more likely to be charged with a serious offense, receive longer sentences, and face harsher forms of stigma upon release from the criminal justice system.
To address those inequities and others, a partnership between the Community Foundation, the Hudson-Webber Foundation, and other local and national funders has developed the Michigan Justice Fund.
The fund’s main objectives are to:
- Reduce Michigan’s reliance on incarceration and detention as the primary response to crime.
- Adopt effective strategies to divert people who are living with a mental illness, drug addiction, and other behavioral health needs from incarceration.
- Advance racial equity in Michigan by addressing racial disparities in the juvenile and adult justice systems, and support communities of color that have been historically under-resourced and heavily impacted by the justice system.
So far, the fund has engaged in an initial round of grantmaking and peer-learning opportunities for a diverse cohort of organizations from across Michigan.
These organizations directly serve justice-impacted individuals and/or work to develop or advocate for systemic policy improvements that support this population.
The cohort includes ACLU of Michigan, the Detroit Justice Center, the Michigan Center for Youth Justice, and the State Appellate Defender Office. Ultimately, this group of organizations and other stakeholders will help the Michigan Justice Fund develop a strategic plan for supporting justice reform initiatives, as well as a vision for how safety and justice efforts can be supported in our state.
Moving forward, the fund will continue to support initiatives demonstrating that for those in the criminal justice system, access to health care and education, as well as economic security and mobility, are foundational to building safe and just communities for all.