Ford Foundation Working with Visionaries on the Frontlines of Social Change Worldwide
Human Rights

Reforming Civil and Criminal Justice Systems

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The goal of this work is to ensure access for marginalized groups to a robust criminal justice community committed to fairness and equal protection under the law.

The Challenge

The United States has the world's highest incarceration rate, locking up 1 out of every 100 adults, with poor people and people of color filling a vastly disproportionate number of prison and jail cells. Both in the United States and in other countries, civil and criminal justice systems face immense challenges in providing equal protection under the law, access to a fair legal process, adequate legal representation and information about legal rights and opportunities.

What We're Doing

We focus on developing innovative pathways to public safety that avoid excessive sentencing, increasing the quality of indigent defense, strengthening the voices of reform-minded prosecutors, and promoting greater understanding of the civil and criminal systems. We support organizations that achieve these objectives through legal and policy advocacy, empirical research, and piloting of effective practices.

We encourage collaboration among key justice stakeholders that share a commitment to systemic improvement, including law schools, research centers, public and private legal aid programs, people involved in justice systems and their families, and government and court officials on the leading edge of change.

Learn more about how our strategies and approaches shape our grant making.




  • Vivek Malhotra
  • Kirsten D. Levingston
  • Katherine Wilhelm

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