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29 posts categorized "Criminal Justice"

5 Questions for...Laurie Garduque, Director, Justice Reform, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

February 04, 2016

Recent opinions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court which hold that imposing harsh sentences on juvenile offenders violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment have transformed the landscape of juvenile sentencing. In December, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which earlier in the year had announced it would be winding down its significant support for juvenile justice reform efforts as part of a refocusing of its grantmaking strategy on  a handful of "big bets," including the over-use of jails and incarceration in America, released Juvenile Justice in a Developmental Framework: A Status Report (48 pages, PDF), its summation, based on twenty years of work, of developmentally appropriate best practices in nine key juvenile justice policy areas.

Last month, PND spoke with Laurie Garduque, director of justice reform at the foundation, about the genesis of its work in the juvenile justice field, the report's findings, and the prospects for further reform as MacArthur exits the field.

Philanthropy News Digest: MacArthur entered the juvenile justice field in 1996, a decision motivated by a belief inside the foundation that juveniles are not adults and should be treated differently by the criminal justice system. What was it about the environment in the mid-1990s that brought the issue to a head for you and your colleagues?

Headshot_laurie_garduqueLaurie Garduque: We'd been investing in research on child and adolescent development before 1996, and that research made it clear that children and adolescents were different, cognitively and emotionally, than adults. But the legal implications of those findings had not been considered. In the 1980s, violent crime among youths increased sharply, and fears of a generation of "super predators," a fear fanned by politicians and the press, led states across the country to move to treat young offenders as if they weren't young. States began to focus on the offense, not the offender, and moved toward harsh, punitive laws that included making it easier to try adolescents as adults. The report notes that, in the years leading up to MacArthur's decision to enter the field, forty-five states had changed their laws to try adolescents and children, some as young as ten years of age, as adults. States had also removed the kinds of due process protections you would like to see for young people – for example, determining whether or not they're competent to stand trial. And within the system itself, the emphasis was less on rehabilitation and treatment, and more on punishment. It wasn't about helping young people learn from their mistakes and getting them back on course; it was about punishing them harshly.

Knowing all that, knowing the harm that can result when you treat young people as adults, and seeing the toll these new laws were taking, dispropor­tion­ately, on young people of color and on low-income communities, the foundation started to look at ways we could use research, scientific evidence, and best practices to stem the tide and reform the system. In effect, we were looking for ways to reverse the rush toward draconian reforms and policies that was sweeping the country.

PND: One of the first things you and your col­leagues did was to create a re­search network focused on some of the important aspects of adolescent development and juvenile justice. Can you share with us some of the key findings surfaced by that initiative.

LG: You have to go back to the origins of juvenile court in the early part of the twentieth century, which was based on the recognition that children were deserving of a separate justice system from adults because they weren't as competent as adults, weren't as culp­able for their actions, and should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their capacity to change. Those ideas were challenged in the '80s as crime rates in the United States rose. To get society to once again accept the idea that a young person is less culpable for his actions than an adult, is less compe­tent to stand trial, and has more of a capacity to change than an adult, we knew we would have to map the adolescent development research that was being done to specific legal concepts. How, for example, do you determine whether someone is competent to stand trial? Are adolescents fully responsible for and truly understand the consequences of their actions? Are they more susceptible to peer pressure? More impulsive? Given their developmental immatur­ity, both with respect to their behavior and their brain development, should the criminal justice system treat them differently? The same is true of sentencing. We tend to punish adults harshly because we don't believe they have the capacity to change, or they're not as amenable to treatment and rehabilitation, whereas young people, who haven't yet matured, either emotionally and, in many cases, psychologically, are more likely to respond to rehabilitation.

So, as I said, it became important to map what all that looked like in terms of adolescents' social, emo­tional, and cognitive develop­ment, and to try to identify what the differences between children, adolescents, and adults in those areas were. We were confident that if we could pro­vide scientific evidence which demonstrated, in effect, how the immaturity of young people argues against them being treated as adults by the justice system, it could be the basis for a new way of thinking about how to hold juvenile offenders accountable for their behavior.

As things turned out, that body of research also became important in terms of recent Supreme Court decisions and was a valuable source of guidance for state and local agencies with respect to their juvenile justice practices.

PND: I want to talk about the Supreme Court in a minute. But first, in addition to supporting research, tell us about some of the other strategies the foundation developed to advance the cause of juvenile justice reform.

LG: What we recognized very early on is that there's no such thing as a single juvenile justice system in the United States. There are fifty juvenile justice systems, in that each state has the power to decide what it is a juvenile offense and what the policies and practices should be in terms of sentencing for that offense. We also knew that there was a great deal of discretion exercised at the local level about whether to process the young person formally or informally, and that states vary in terms of the amount and kinds of resources available to keep kids in the community, as opposed to sending them off to prison. We also knew that if we wanted to demonstrate that juvenile justice reform was practical, feasible, desirable, and could produce better outcomes for kids and the community, all while saving taxpayer dollars and improving public safety, we had to make our case on the ground, in individual jurisdictions.

So, with the research generated by our research network providing the basic framework around which juvenile justice reform should, in our opinion, be pursued  things like ensuring that due process protections for juveniles are in place, minimizing juvenile offenders contact with the adult criminal justice system as well as the use of secure confinement, providing them with rehabilitation and treatment — we had to show it could all be done and produce the desired outcomes.

That was the genesis of Models for Change, our signature effort for over a decade in terms of working with state and local jurisdictions across the country. We wanted to demonstrate to states that they could accomplish juvenile justice reform regardless of their starting point in terms of resources, past history, or politics. We started with Pennsylvania and then expanded our efforts to Illinois, Louisiana, and Washington. As it turned out, that expansion was critical to our success, in that it enabled us to show that there were multiple pathways to reform, regardless of your starting point. It didn't matter whether you were dealing with a Department of Justice investigation, as Louisiana was at the time, or whether you had a long history and track record of progressive reform, as Pennsylvania did. It didn't matter whether you were a red state or a blue state. And it didn't matter whether the drive for reform was led by a charismatic individual inside or outside of government. Through Models for Change, we were able to show that the system could be changed, that reform could happen, and that those reforms could be both cost effective and improve outcomes for kids and the public.

Eventually, we expanded our work with those four states, where the focus was on comprehensive reform, to twelve additional states, where the focus was on specific issues such as reducing racial and ethnic disparities, improving access to and the quality of juvenile indigent defense, and addressing the mental health needs of kids in contact with the system. And through that work, we generated a series of best practices that had been field-tested and demonstrated to be effective, developed guidebooks, tool kits, manuals, and training curricula, and partnered with the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to spread those resources to additional states. Those efforts have made a difference. The spread and diffusion of innovative policies and practices has been validated by the National Academy of Sciences, which in several recent reports talks about a developmental approach to juvenile justice reform and new ways to think about the application of a developmental framework to systems reform. The Council of State Governments has issued a similar report drawing attention to changes in law and policy. So, we feel there has been a cultural shift in the country, one that recognizes the importance of holding young kids accountable, but in ways that ensure they acquire the skills and competencies they need to become successful and productive citizens.

PND: You must be gratified by recent events. First, the Supreme Court, in a six-to-three decision, ruled that a prior decision to bar mandatory juvenile life sentences without parole must be applied retroactively. And on the same day, President Obama issued an executive order banning the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Does that mean you can declare victory, or is there more work to be done?

LG: We're still dealing with the consequences of the harsh and punitive sentencing practices of the 1980s and '90s, and there is still a tendency to think that treating adolescents as adults is sound policy and practice. Which means we still have work to do in terms of rolling back automatic transfer of juvenile offenders to adult criminal courts.

I also think too many states still put the emphasis on the offense and not the offender. They just don't understand that an adolescent and an adult who commit a similar offense are not, and should not be, considered the same under the law. From an adolescent development perspective, too many of our laws are still unfair, unjust, and inhumane, and those laws have proven to be difficult to roll back. Does it surprise me? Not really. The Supreme Court only eliminated the juvenile death penalty in 2005, and only recently followed that up by eliminating life-without-parole sen­tences for juveniles in non-homicide cases and mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles charged with homicide. But we still see plenty of extreme sentencing practices, which I would call anything beyond twenty-five years without the possibility of parole, for many young offenders. Those laws have proven to be very difficult to change.

PND: Now that MacArthur is exiting the field, how can other foundations support the work that needs to be done?

LG: We think there’s a lot of momentum building behind juvenile justice reform, that networks and advocacy organizations have been seeded at many levels, that juvenile justice professionals and state legislators are better informed, and that there's a substantial body of knowledge out there with respect to best practices, sentencing guidelines, and so on.

That said, MacArthur has shifted its focus to the misuse and overuse of jails, a major issue affecting low-income people and communities of color, where the problem of mass incarceration begins. Based on our juvenile justice work, we were, and are, confident that there is an interest, at both the local and state levels, in changing policies and practices when it comes to the use of jails and incarceration while protecting public safety. One of the things we learned is that local jurisdictions not only need resources to support the adoption and implementation of new policies and practices, they also need technical assistance to help guide their reform efforts. But with new leadership, new resources, and clear pathways with respect to systems reform, the prospects for further change, change that can be sus­tained, are bright. Will there be threats to the current wave of reform? Another spike in crime rates followed by a moral panic? No one can say, but it's certainly happened before. Still, we're hopeful that activists and reformers are in a better position, as a result of our efforts, to deflect any such threats to the gains that have been made and will be able to keep the momentum going.

— Mitch Nauffts

For-Profit Prison Industry Not a Smart Investment

January 06, 2016

I-want-you-prison432x617If there's an adjective that defines our era, it's "smart." Smartphones, smart cars, smart policy, you name it. We live in a time when people expect and demand that everything in their lives — from their thermostat to their government — operate intelligently, transparently, and with an adherence to common sense.

That explains why there is rare cross-ideological and bipartisan support for fixing what can only be called the "dumb" criminal justice system in the United States. For the past thirty years, a "lock 'em up" approach to crime has left us with 25 percent of the world's prisoners and an incarceration system that does very little to rehabilitate people, treat people who are addicted to illicit substances, or make our communities healthier and safer.

The momentum behind change is leading to real reforms on the ground. Some truly smart new approaches to criminal justice are already making a difference, with foundations helping to lead the way.

One of the best examples is the "Public Safety Assessment," a data-based tool that gives judges guidance on whom to lock up and who to release during the period between a defendant’s arrest and trial. Created by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the tool uses the same kind of algorithms that direct drivers to routes with less traffic and allow epidemiologists to monitor disease outbreaks. The tool is used in dozens of states and jurisdictions, including here in California, and it is proven to reduce repeat offenses, overcrowding in prisons, and crime.

Most importantly, by tackling the problem on the front end — during the pretrial period — PSA applies the power of prevention, which is well documented in health care, to our broken criminal justice system.

We need to apply the same kind of smart thinking throughout the system.

Perhaps one of the best places to start is to shut down the for-profit incarceration industry, which, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, currently houses up to 8 percent of our states’ prison population and, according to the Huffington Post, half of all immigration-related federal detainees.

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Weekend Link Roundup (December 26-27, 2015)

December 27, 2015

New-years-resolutionsOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at@pndblog....

Arts and Culture

Eight years after its controversial Central Library Plan was greeted with alarm and derision, the New York Public Library  is moving forward with a $300 million renovation of its historic midtown campus, and this time, library leaders say, "it's a different story." WNYC's Jessica Gould reports.

How can we talk about art and artists in a way that makes clear their contributions to quality of life in the communities we call home? Veteran policy advocate and communicator Margy Waller shares some thoughts on Americans for the Arts' ArtsBlog.

Civil Society

On the Open Society Foundations' Voices blog, OSF president Christopher Stone notes the troubling fact that, in countries around the world and for a variety of reasons, "active citizenship is under attack and the space for civic engagement is closing."

Climate Change

Andrew Simmons, founder of the JEMS Progressive Community Organization and the Caribbean Youth Environment Network and a previous winner ('94) of the Goldman Environmental Prize, talks to the folks at GEP about the global agreement forged at the recent Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC/COP21) summit in Paris and whether it is enough to save vulnerable island-nations from disaster.

Corporate Philanthropy

Based on Corporate Responsibility magazine's list of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens of 2015, the folks at the JK group share ten lessons from their work that make these companies the best in philanthropy and how yours can follow suit.

Criminal Justice

On the Marshall Project site, Vincent Schiraldi, formerly director of juvenile corrections for Washington, D.C., and a senior advisor to the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice in New York City, argues that in order to truly end mass incarceration in the U.S., "we need to completely shutter the doors of youth prisons...."

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Criminal Justice: Letter to POTUS From Executives' Alliance

August 15, 2015

In a letter sent to the White House earlier this month, the presidents and CEOs of twenty-seven foundations called on President Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal agencies and contractors to treat job applicants with arrests or convictions fairly in the hiring process.

The letter was signed by members of the Executives' Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color, which works to reform the criminal justice system, and was issued as proponents of "fair chance" hiring reform have, in recent weeks, stepped up their campaign, including a rally at the White House in late July that drew hundreds from around the country.

The White House, for its part, appears to have arrived at a similar  conclusion and, as Alan Schwarz reports in today's New York Times, is taking steps to address some of the damage caused by over-incarceration and harsh sentences for minor drug offenses that became the norm after a war on drugs was declared in the 1980s.

With the alliance's permission, we've reprinted the letter in its entirety below....

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Weekend Link Roundup (July 25-26, 2015)

July 26, 2015

Dog_days_summerOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Criminal Justice

The people who credit mass incarceration for reducing crime in the United States have it all wrong, writes Allison Schrager in Quartz.

Democracy

In advance of National Voter Registration Day on September 22, Independent Sector, the National Council of Nonprofits, Nonprofit VOTE, and United Way Worldwide have launched Nonprofit Votes Count, a national campaign aimed at encouraging every eligible nonprofit staff member and volunteer to register and vote.

Disabilities

Sunday is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the ADA National Network and its ten regional centers  have out together a nice tool kit to mark the occasion.

Education

The folks at Vox have posted a new explainer on the Common Core.

Global Health

On the NowStand4 site, Grant Trahant interviews Andrea Tamburini, CEO of Action Against Hunger, about his organization's efforts to treat malnutrition and end hunger around the globe.

With the goal of helping PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) in its ongoing efforts to increase data transparency and general participation in the COP process, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, has launched a PEPFAR Country/Regional Operational Plans (COPs/ROPs) database featuring planned funding reported in publicly released 2007-2014 country and regional operational plans

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 13-14, 2015)

June 14, 2015

Bigstock-graduation-cap-diplomaOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Criminal Justice

On the BMAfunders.org site, Shawn Dove, CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, argues that mass incarceration of young men and boys of color "is a symptom of a larger disease that is prevalent both before and after arrest and imprisonment occur." 

Fundraising

A new report from Crain’s New York Business, in partnership with the Association of Fundraising Professionals, finds that 57 percent of respondents to a spring 2014 survey said they expected to raise more in 2014 than in 2013, while a majority — 52 percent (compared to 29 percent in 2013) — said their organizations planned to hire development staff in 2015 to take advantage of the more generous giving climate.

"Generation Z, the heirs to the digital empire built by Generation X and expanded by Millennials, is made up of people who don’t just spend time online — they live there," writes Beth Kanter on her blog. "And despite their youth... kids in Generation Z are regularly rocking social media for social good. Well-informed, constantly connected, and more tech-confident than your aunt Jan, they're taking on the world's problems, one online fundraiser at a time.

Governance

Where do nonprofit boards fall short? The Nonprofit Law Blog's Erin Bradrick shares some thoughts.

Impact/Effectiveness

On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington chats with Mary Winkler, senior research associate with the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, about measurement as a "necessary practice" for nonprofit organizations, the difference between measurement and evaluation, and the challenge inherent in finding funding for measurement work. 

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'Under Construction': Growing Kings

December 05, 2014

Under_Construction_logoUnder Construction is a multimedia online exhibit showcasing some of the best and brightest organizations working with males of color. The UC team of filmmakers, photographers, writers, and nonprofit experts worked directly with each of these organizations for several weeks. The collaborations yielded comprehensive portraits of the services men of color receive. Each profile features a short video, a photography exhibit, a visual program model, and a narrative essay detailing the efforts of these organizations.

Under Construction is a project of Frontline Solutions and was made possible through the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For more profiles, click here.

There's an old saying that goes, A boy is born, a man is trained.

In the hodge-podge of races, cultures, ethnicities, and all their companion traditions that is America, there's no formalized, hard-and-fast entrée into manhood. Sans a singular rite of passage, it just kind of happens from family to family, community to community. Getting a driver's license, losing one's virginity, graduating from high school or college and joining the workforce, turning 18 or 21 (depending on whom you ask) — all have been pointed to as touchstones in the shaping of masculinity. Fathering a child is perhaps the most significant of all, but the consensus view holds that, the mechanics of biology aside, the ability to procreate does not make a male a father — nor make him a man.

The absence of active dads in black and Latino communities has been well-documented as the by-product of systemic social factors and poor personal decisions. Whatever the reasons, the result is boys growing up without real-life role models and male figures unable or unwilling to offer their time, wisdom, and emotional maturity to boys looking for the way forward. Mentorship doesn't necessarily substitute for the absence of a biological parent, but it often does provide boys and young men with support and encouragement from older guys who can relate to them because, not too long ago, they were them.

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Ferguson and Foundations: Are We Doing Enough?

November 25, 2014

Blackmalestudent_301X400Like many Americans, I was glued to my television set last night as I watched the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, erupt in violence. This is not a post about the merits of a grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Rather, it is my attempt to make sense of a very complicated situation and to ask whether philanthropy is doing enough to address the fact that there are too many Michael Browns in America, too many angry and frustrated communities like Ferguson, too much real and perceived injustice in our society, and too much polarization in the way these difficult issues are covered and discussed.

You don't need me to tell you that nearly every major indicator of social and physical well-being underscores the fact that black men and boys in the United States do not have access to the structural supports and educational and economic opportunities they need to thrive. More than a quarter of black men and boys live in poverty. Black fathers are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to live apart from their children. Young black males have the highest teen death rate, at 94 deaths per 100,000, and 40 percent of those deaths are homicides. Black males between the ages of 25 and 39 are more likely to be incarcerated than any other demographic group, leading author and civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander to note that "More African American adults are under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began."

Is philanthropy doing enough to address this appalling state of affairs? In a word, "no" — though in some ways that should not be surprising. Foundations are endowed, private institutions required to serve the public good in a way approved as "charitable" by the Internal Revenue Service and in accordance with their donors' intent. They are fiercely independent, idiosyncratic, and, at times, risk averse and short-sighted. A foundation executive once told me he and his colleagues had given up on access to safe water as a program area because "it was too complicated and we couldn't have any impact." Yet foundations have the choice to be different, not least because they represent one of the few remaining sources of un-earmarked capital in the economy. It is precisely this independence and autonomy that gives them the freedom to take risks and work on long-term solutions.

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It's Time to Make the American Dream Available to All

May 27, 2014

Headshot_geoff_canadaThe barriers to success that black men face have been in plain sight for decades, so it is particularly heartening to see a movement taking shape that is specifically crafted to address these challenges and change the odds for one of the most disenfranchised populations in America.

I was on the board of trustees of the Open Society Foundations when the idea of a black male achievement campaign first came up. While it was obvious that something needed to be done, we immediately found ourselves facing a philosophical dilemma: Was it right to target just one group when other groups also need help?

In a country where cultural and racial relations are as complicated as they are in the United States, people are understandably hesitant to publicly announce they are going to help one group while seemingly ignoring all others. Eventually, we concluded that tailoring our efforts to a group that has a common history and a resulting set of common challenges is absolutely the right approach. Black men in America — while individuals in their own right — are heirs to a unique historical experience. After slavery was ended by the Civil War, black men faced decades of institutional racism, Jim Crow and segregation, public lynchings, and disenfranchisement. More recently, they have been abused and demeaned by a toxic street culture and media stereotypes that glorify self-destructive behavior.

If we are going to close the achievement gap and end what the Children's Defense Fund calls the "cradle to prison pipeline" for black boys and men, we need to take into consideration the insidious context of their situation. Indeed, as the Campaign for Black Male Achievement has taken shape, gaining traction even as parallel efforts have emerged, we've seen how necessary and overdue such an effort is. While there is certainly a lot of day-to-day work still to be done, the narrative and national dialogue have begun to change. Ignorance and fear are giving way to empathy and intelligent action.

We have, in Barack Obama, a president who has given the imprimatur of the White House to the idea that racism will not be sanctioned or ignored by society.  In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting, the president's empathetic response created space for an honest, open, and clear-eyed public discussion of race relations and the stubbornness of racism in America.

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'Under Construction': SEARAC - Washington, D.C.

May 20, 2014

Under Construction is a multimedia online exhibit showcasing some of the best and brightest organizations working with males of color. The UC team of filmmakers, photographers, writers, and nonprofit experts worked directly with each of these organizations for several weeks. The collaborations yielded comprehensive portraits of the services men of color receive. Each profile features a short video, a photography exhibit, a visual program model, and a narrative essay detailing the efforts of these organizations.

Under Construction is a project of Frontline Solutions and was made possible through the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For more profiles, click here.

He'd stayed calm as a cop dumped the contents of his backpack onto the sidewalk.

Scenes like this had already played out with most of his friends. Today he was riding his skateboard to school and running late, and now it was his turn to be the law's concern. He was told to take his shirt off so they could take photos of his tattoos. All the while he stood quietly, insisting that he wasn't in a gang, saying softly, "I don't belong to nobody," over and over. But when he saw the cop get angry and toss his skateboard into the street, he ran after it, picked it up, and came right back to the questions. At 14, that plank of wood and those wheels were the only place he felt good.

"What gang are you in?" the officer asked Anthony Hem, a son of Cambodian immigrants. How many times would he have to say it? "I don’t belong to nobody." Finally the officer went to his car, came out with a list of area gangs, and picked one near the top. "He just came up to me and said, 'Now you're on gang file. You're from this gang now, the Asian Boyz'," Hem says. The Asian Boyz are affiliated with the Crips. From now on, that's how the law would see him.

Under-construction-searac-2In a country where conversations about racial equality are focused heavily on African Americans and Latinos, the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center in Washington, D.C., serves a different population. SEARAC supports grassroots organizations that are looking out for kids like Hem, children of refugees who face many of the same issues other minority groups face, like poverty, violence, prejudice, racial profiling, and despair.

The national organization focuses intently on state and national policies and helps organizations like Khmer Girls and Boys in Action in Long Beach, California, and the One Love Movement in San Diego, relentlessly push lawmakers to reconsider policies like the one that put Hem in a gang file with no notification of his parents and no due process for having his name removed. The policy knowledge that SEARAC shares serves as a tool that smaller organizations integrate into their mentoring and cultural education activities. The collaboration helps foster young leaders who can speak for a refugee community still reeling from the effects of genocide and war.

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'Under Construction': Exodus Transitional Community - East Harlem, New York

April 28, 2014

Under-construction-logoUnder Construction is a multimedia online exhibit showcasing some of the best and brightest organizations working with males of color. The UC team of filmmakers, photographers, writers, and nonprofit experts worked directly with each of these organizations for several weeks. The collaborations yielded comprehensive portraits of the services men of color receive. Each profile features a short video, a photography exhibit, a visual program model, and a narrative essay detailing the efforts of these organizations.

Under Construction is a project of Frontline Solutions and was made possible through the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For more profiles, click here.

On these blocks in East Harlem it is easy to imagine the entire outside world as a penitentiary. If a man disappears, you can bet he's up at Sing Sing, or Greenhaven, or some other correctional facility with a pleasant-sounding name.

And, as if out of a timeless void, they return.

Earlier this spring, you may have recognized a face on 3rd Avenue that you hadn't seen since 1993. Maybe later that night the name came to you, Michael Rowe, that kid who had a penchant for flashy clothes and who worked at his uncle's Laundromat on East 124th Street. So he's back now, you think. Trees have grown tall since then. There's a giant IHOP on the corner now. That wasn't here back then.

Each year some 2,200 people return from incarceration to this small pocket of upper Manhattan —north from 119th to 126th Street, and east from Lexington over to 2nd Avenue — an area that takes ten minutes to cross on foot. Their return has earned the neighborhood the name the Reentry Corridor. They come back with a felony record and little chance of finding sustainable work, back to households that were unstable years ago and have not been helped by time. Many carry high hopes of making a new life, hopes ten or twenty or thirty years in the making. Within a year, more than half of them will be locked up again.

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'A Small Committed Minority of Believers'

February 18, 2014

(Shawn Dove is campaign manager for the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement. In a December 2012 Newsmaker interview with PND, he discussed the report Where Do We Go From Here? Philanthropic Support for Black Men and Boys.)

Headshot_Shawn Dove_A generation ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted in Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community?, the last book he published before he was assassinated, that "it will take…a small committed minority [of believers] to work unrelentingly to win the uncommitted majority. Such a group may well transform America's greatest dilemma into her most glorious opportunity."

The great dilemma that King wrote about in 1967 still gnaws at the roots of a nation that was founded on a premise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but was built on a foundation of racial and gender inequality. And while today no single group of people in America can claim that it alone is marginalized — sadly, there are many such groups — it is hard to dispute that disparities faced by black men and boys across a number of indicators, including incarceration, academic achievement, and unemployment, paint a picture of their systemic exclusion from the American mainstream.

The thorny issue of black men and their standing in American society is, of course, not a new one. Yet in light of recent advances in the emerging field of black male achievement, there is reason to hope that the small committed minority of believers who have been working hard to improve the life outcomes and perceptions of black men and boys are swaying the majority of non-believers.

By now, most people have heard that President Obama intends to launch a significant new effort "to bolster the lives of young men of color" in America. Building on momentum that has been growing over recent years, the public rollout of My Brother's Keeper, as the initiative is called, represents a bold response to the challenges confronting so many young men of color. Without a doubt, this is an historic moment for the work and aspirations of many leaders working within and outside philanthropy who have devoted their lives to creating an America where black men and boys can compete on an even playing field of opportunity and realize their full potential.

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For the Success of Boys and Men of Color, A Call to Action

January 29, 2014

(Kenneth H. Zimmerman is director of U.S. programs for the Open Society Foundations. This post was first published on Open Society's Voices blog.)

Headshot_Ken_ZimmermanIn this year's State of the Union address, President Obama opened the door to an opportunity that may be a game changer for millions of boys and men of color in America.

In his speech, President Obama said he believes in the fundamental importance of transforming the lives of young men and boys of color and is committed to bolstering and reinforcing government and private partnerships to work on the issue.

We welcome and are heartened by the president's commitment and recognition that a key part of the effort to increase opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race and gender, is to focus explicitly on helping boys and men of color succeed.

Young men of color face systemic economic, social, and political barriers in their everyday lives. As a result, too many of them are denied educational opportunity, become unemployed, or, worse, face incarceration.

In spite of these barriers, we see men and boys of color overcome the odds on a regular basis —graduating at the top of their classes, achieving leadership positions in corporations, becoming business owners, and being wonderful fathers to their families and valuable members of their communities. They are vital assets to our country, and investing in pathways to build opportunity for them will deliver significant economic and civic benefits to the nation as a whole.

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[Infographic] Social Impact Bonds

October 26, 2013

This week's infographic, courtesy of the Rockefeller Foundation, looks at pay-for-success, or social impact bonds (SIBs), an innovative financial approach to the chronic shortage of public-sector funds for effective social interventions in which government partners with private foundations and investors willing "to provide upfront funding for early intervention services and provides financial returns on those investments if, and only if, the intervention is successful."

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Philanthropy and the Open Society: A Q&A With Christopher Stone, President, Open Society Foundations

August 22, 2013

Headshot_christopher_stone"George Soros once told a group of people he and I were speaking to that my appointment signaled no change in the Open Society Foundations, because change had been a constant since OSF's birth and would continue into the foreseeable future," said Christopher Stone when we spoke to him earlier this year.  "And that certainly applies to our funding priorities."

Since Stone joined the Open Society Foundations as president in 2012, many have wondered how, if at all, the change in leadership might affect the global network of philanthropies started and funded by Soros, the hedge fund billionaire. After all, Stone succeeded Open Society's founding president, Aryeh Neier, a former executive director of Human Rights Watch, national director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a close Soros friend who led the foundation for nearly twenty years, helping "to make...[it] into a truly international organization." With foundations in dozens of countries around the world, it was unclear -- and concerning to some -- how Stone intended to "streamline" what Soros previously had described in an interview with the New York Times as "a very complex organization." But, as Stone told us when we spoke with him, what Soros was alluding to was nothing more than new ways of organizing the Foundations' work so that it could "achieve more with each grant, program, and strategy."

Before joining Open Society, Stone served as Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. Prior to that, he served as director of the Vera Institute of Justice, founded the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, and served as a founding director of the New York State's Capital Defender Office and the Altus Global Alliance.

PND spoke with Stone in May and followed up with him via e-mail earlier this month.

Philanthropy News Digest: You were once described by Open Society founder George Soros as an "outsider insider." What did he mean?

Christopher Stone: I think he meant that I've been associated with the Open Society Foundations since the 1990s, but I haven't truly been inside the organization. I've been an advisory board member of the Open Society Justice Initiative since 2004 and an occasional advisor and grantee of the organization since the Open Society Institute was created in 1993. But I've been outside the organization in the sense that I haven't worked directly for Open Society, and I haven't been on any of its governing boards, until now. I can appreciate the organization and understand its history, but I don't have the commitments and am not wedded to any particular elements of the foundations that George Soros, I think, is hoping we will be reviewing over this transition.

PND: What has your varied experience taught you about the potential and limits of philanthropy?

CS: Over the years, I've known a number of foundation presidents and worked with many foundations, occasionally as an informal advisor and mostly as a grantee. Among other things, I've learned that, like other fields, the philanthropic sector is all about relationships; that foundations vary tremendously from one to another; and that they are really dependent in all sorts of ways on their grantees. Not just to execute the projects they support, but to help define and inform their sense of the field. Foundations work hard at getting outside opinions and observations. But it's a hard thing to do, and I think the mutual dependence of foundations on grantees, and grantees on foundations, is not as obvious to a lot of people who assume that the grantee is a supplicant and the foundation has all the cards.

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