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9 posts categorized "Juvenile Justice"

‘Under Construction’: Center for Urban Families - Baltimore, Maryland

February 24, 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.

To learn more about the Center for Urban Families, visit BMAfunders.org.

Joseph Thomas knows how deterioration works. It is the same process for the shuttered blocks of West Baltimore where he was a boy as it is for the man who has no one to talk to. The facades are the last thing to go.

"In prison you have a lot of time to think," says Thomas, who served two years. A quiet, gentle man, he thought about how he had drifted through life since an early age with no one to steer him. Most of all, he thought about his daughters, wondering if he still had a chance to give them what he didn't have, a positive role model. Today, you listen to him talk about his teenage girls, what it means to make it to one of their badminton games, and he almost blushes. He was always in their lives, but he has learned that there are different kinds of presence.

Thomas, 38, is one of more than twenty thousand people who have come through the doors of Baltimore's Center for Urban Families (CFUF), where fatherhood and employment courses re-order their ideas about what a man's life can mean to his family and to the neighborhoods they call home.

The center operates out of an angular, bastion-like building here in Sandtown, where Thomas was a boy. "It was wild," he says. "It was drugs on every corner. It was people getting killed." But in the center's halls, people carry themselves with a refined confidence. They show up on time and sit around boardroom tables, or in large, university-like classrooms. And Thomas, like everybody else, is wearing a suit and tie. "The training wasn't just about training for a job," he says. "It was about succeeding in life."

Founded in 1999 by a former drug addict, the Center for Urban Families has become a model for how to reach urban men, perhaps the country's most underserved demographic. Here in a community that many think of as a "city of neighborhoods," the center's work targets the hardest of these, the street corners that have found infamy as the backdrop of popular television crime shows like The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets.

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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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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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Prison's Dilemma

August 21, 2013

On August 28, 1963, America witnessed what was arguably the greatest demonstration for racial justice in the history of the country. Half a century after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the looming question of racial equality in America remains.

In the lead-up to the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, PhilanTopic is publishing a ten-part series, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, in which some of America's most important writers explore our race issues, past and present.

In the seventh installment of that series (click here for the sixth, "A Dedicated Life: Shirley Sherrod's Ongoing Battle for Racial Cooperation in Georgia," by Ryan Cooper), Glenn C. Loury, the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown University, explains how America's overreliance on incarceration adversely affects African Americans and exacerbates existing racial and class inequalities. The essay below first appeared in the Washington Monthly and is reprinted here with the permission of that publication.

Headshot_glenn_louryOver the past four decades, the United States has become a punitive nation without historical precedent or international parallel. With roughly 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. currently confines about one-quarter of the world's prison inmates. In 2008,one in a hundred American adults was behind bars. Just what manner of people does our prison policy reveal us to be?

America, with great armies deployed abroad under a banner of freedom, nevertheless harbors the largest infrastructure for the mass deprivation of liberty on the planet. We imprison nearly as great a fraction of our population to a lifetime in jail (around seventy people for every hundred thousand residents) as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway imprison for any duration whatsoever.

That America's prisoners are mainly minorities, particularly African Americans, who come from the most disadvantaged corners of our unequal society, cannot be ignored. In 2006, one in nine black men between the ages of twenty and thirty-four was serving time. The role of race in this drama is subtle and important, and the racial breakdown is not incidental: prisons both reflect and exacerbate existing racial and class inequalities.

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A New Way to Sustain the Campaign: Foundation Center and Open Society Foundations Launch BMAFunders.org

March 28, 2013

(Shawn Dove is the campaign manager for the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement. The original version of this post appears on Philanthropy New York's Smart Assets blog.)

Headshot_Shawn Dove_This June will mark the five-year anniversary of the creation of the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement, which was launched in 2008 to address the economic, political, social, and educational exclusion of black men and boys from American society. When I consider the upcoming five-year milestone I can't help but think that the campaign was originally slated to be just a three-year "initiative." But thanks to the determined and focused work of our partners in philanthropy, government, the not-for-profit community, and the private sector, our board extended the campaign's term limit and provided CBMA staff with much-needed breathing room, increased funding, and an opportunity to exhibit bold leadership on behalf of the emerging field of black male achievement.

During the past five years, the work of the campaign, along with the efforts of an evolving group of philanthropic partners and leaders from the policy, advocacy, practitioner, and research sectors, has expanded on the earlier work of funders like the Ford Foundation and the 21st Century Foundation to tackle a seemingly intractable problem. It has been fueled by a broad and diverse sector of organizations that combine a direct services and policy change approach. From the time we launched the CBMA, my daily mantra has been "sustain the campaign" in the belief that the philanthropic sector could not remedy a generational problem facing black men and boys with a short-term grant-cycle mindset.

In partnership with the Foundation Center, we have launched the Web portal BMAfunders.org to facilitate engagement, collaboration, and strategic decision making among funders, nonprofits, and policy makers working to promote positive outcomes for black men and boys in America. It could very well be the pivotal investment that enables this work to gain the sustained philanthropic commitment necessary to overcome the structural and systemic barriers that prevent too many black men and boys from realizing their full potential.

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5 Questions for…Cheryl Dorsey, President, Echoing Green

February 27, 2013

Social innovation and entrepreneurship are two of the most powerful tools available to those committed to black male achievement. So argued Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, a global social venture fund based in New York City, at the Innovation and Impact Forum hosted by the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement last October. In part, added Dorsey, that's because they have captured the attention of, and increasingly are being driven by, a millennial generation interested in a networked, technology-enabled model of social change.

In 2012, Echoing Green partnered with OSF to launch the Black Male Achievement Fellowships and announced the first cohort of BMA fellows in June. Earlier this month, the organization announced the 2013 semi-finalists for both the Echoing Green and Black Male Achievement Fellowships.

Recently, PND spoke with Dorsey about the BMA fellowship program, her own experience as a social entrepreneur, and the role of public policy in the field of black male achievement.

Headshot_cheryl_dorsey_echoingPhilanthropy News Digest: What did you think of President Obama's State of the Union Address?

Cheryl Dorsey: I think the president's address presented a call for effective collaboration to solve crucial problems in our country. Many people make it their life's work to try to solve tough problems, from engineers working to create microchips that are smaller but carry more information to community bankers seeking to provide greater access to capital and teachers seeking to help more children in the classroom move ahead. President Obama's State of the Union address was a call for those who are on this path of enterprise, service, and innovation to work together.

These are the principles at the heart of the work of our fellows, who strive every day to solve some of the challenges and problems the president laid out in his speech. When the president talks about reducing the cost of solar energy, I think about 2012 Black Male Achievement Fellow Donnel Baird, who is doing important work to make clean energy accessible to all communities, especially low-income communities. When the president talks about expanding service opportunities for young people, I think about Echoing Green alums like Wendy Kopp, Alan Khazei, and Michael Brown, visionary leaders of the national service movement. The State of the Union address made me think about how Echoing Green can continue to support our fellows who are out there on the front lines in communities across the country and around the world.

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The Case for Using a Social Justice Lens in Grantmaking

August 21, 2012

(Over the course of his career, Michael Seltzer, a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic, has served as a program officer at the Ford Foundation, as president of the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers, and as founding executive director of Funders Concerned About AIDS. A version of this post appears in the summer issue of GMNsight, a new journal written for and by members of the Grants Managers Network.)

Social Justice -- A New Phenomenon?

Social_justiceNo. As early as 1972, in an internal memo to John H. Knowles, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, one of his officers suggested that the foundation use the phrase "Towards Social Justice in an Interdependent World" as a 'unifying theme' to describe its work.

Also, in the 1970s, select small- to medium-sized public, family, independent, and public foundations embraced the practice, language, and ethos of social justice, as evidenced by their early support of the U.S. civil rights movement. Their ranks included such private foundations as Norman, Field, Stern, New World, Taconic, and the John Hay Whitney. Subsequently, the public foundations that comprised the Funding Exchange Network -- the Tides Foundation; women's and LGBT funders such as the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice; and the Black United Fund movement -- joined their ranks. David Hunter, Stern's long-term executive director, served as a mentor and guide for many of these funds. The word justice also appeared in the literature of religiously affiliated grantmakers such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Jewish Fund for Justice. This was not surprising, since the precepts of justice are evident in the world's major religions and sacred texts.

Subsequently, this diverse set of donors, in terms of their structure and sources of revenues, began to meet annually under the aegis of the National Network of Change-Oriented Foundations. In 1981, the network's successor organization, the National Network of Foundations (NNG), asserted the following two purposes in its mandate:

To be a voice for issues of social and economic justice within the philanthropic community and externally in sectors of the broad community including government, business, labor and education, and to expand the resource base (human and financial) for social and economic justice activities.

As one indicator of the size of this community of funders, also in 1981 the National Network of Grantmakers and the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) in their publication, The Grantseekers Guide, A Directory for Social and Economic Justice Projects, listed more than one hundred foundations and corporate-giving programs.

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This Week in PubHub: Children and Youth: Juvenile Justice

September 30, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she looked at four reports that examine how well the rapidly evolving news business is serving local communities.)

After nearly twenty years of widespread "zero tolerance" school discipline policies, questions are being raised not only about their effectiveness but about their fairness and long-term effects. This week in PubHub, we are featuring four reports that explore how school discipline policies affect students' academic performance and involvement with the juvenile justice system, as well as efforts to reform that system.

According to Breaking Schools' Rules: A Statewide Study on How School Discipline Relates to Students' Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement (124 pages, PDF), a report from the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University, suspending or expelling students for disciplinary reasons increases the likelihood of their failing academically and/or becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. Funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundations, the report found that 54 percent of students in the state were suspended or expelled at least once between seventh and twelfth grade, with students of color and those with specific educational disabilities disproportionately at higher risk. The report also found that students who had been suspended or expelled were nearly three times more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system during the subsequent academic year, that 31 percent of those who were disciplined repeatedly were held back a grade, and that 10 percent of those who were disciplined repeatedly dropped out.

Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis (25 pages, PDF), a 2010 report from the Civil Rights Project, also argues that frequent suspensions and expulsions do not contribute to better school safety or student behavior but instead reduce opportunities for academic success and increase the risk of incarceration. The report examines the widening race and gender "discipline gaps," finding that while K-12 suspension rates for all students nearly doubled, from 3.7 percent to 6.9 percent, between 1973 and 2006, the 2006 suspension rate for African-American middle school boys was 28.3 percent. Indeed, with such policies resulting in minority students being separated from opportunities to learn at a disproportionately higher rate and facing greater risk of incarceration than their white peers, the issue is as serious a problem as low test scores and high dropout rates, the authors argue. Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, the report offers a number of recommendations, including better data collection and analysis, providing alternative strategies and technical assistance to schools with high suspension rates, and taking measures to address unlawful discrimination in the use of suspensions and expulsions.

When students do get into trouble with the law, they often are tried as adults -- with negative consequences for the community (not to mention the students themselves) in terms of both public safety and economic prosperity. The Campaign for Youth Justice report State Trends: Legislative Victories From 2005 to 2010 Removing Youth From the Adult Criminal Justice System (52 pages, PDF) examines the unfairness of trying teenagers in the adult criminal justice system (where they are often housed in adult jails and prisons) given their still-developing brains and the (usually) minor nature of their offenses; the grave consequences (including higher recidivism rates and lifelong barriers to employment); and the social implications of a disproportionately high rate of minority youth being tried as adults. The authors also highlight encouraging trends at the state and local level, including raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, changing transfer laws, and revising youth sentencing laws. The report was funded by the Casey, Eckerd Family, Meyer, Falk, Ford, JEHT, MacArthur, Public Welfare, Tow, and Open Society foundations; Atlantic Philanthropies; the  California Endowment; the Fund for Nonviolence; the Moriah, Rockit, and Chasdrew funds; the Carter & Melissa Cafritz Trust; Covington and Burling LLP; DHO Consulting, Gladys Jensen; and Julie Jensen.

The JustPartners report Bridges to Manhood: A Multifaceted Probation Strategy That Incorporates Fatherhood Development (28 pages, PDF) addresses a different issue: how to help young men complete their probation while learning to become responsible fathers and family members. Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the report argues that because many young men who go through the juvenile justice system have either no relationship or a damaged relationship with their fathers, helping them become better fathers can help prevent recidivism and may contribute to breaking the negative intergenerational cycle of father absence.

What do you think? Are school disciplinary actions counterproductive? Are racial/ethnic disparities in suspensions and juvenile justice involvement indicative of a larger problem? Do you know of any programs that have been effective in addressing those disparities? Use the comments section to share your thoughts.

And be sure to check out PubHub, where where you can browse more than 765 reports on topics related to children and youth.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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