We are proud to be a partner in the Coalition for Public Safety, a national effort to make the US criminal justice system more fair, just, and effective. The coalition is funded by a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations—progressive, conservative, and everything in between—all of whom recognize that criminal justice reform is an issue on which we can and must find common cause.
Over the past 20 years, the foundation has invested in efforts to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline: from providing greater educational opportunities at the pre-K to grade-12 levels (especially in communities of concentrated poverty); to advancing commonsense, comprehensive sentencing reform; to providing practical needs—including housing, transportation, and job-training services—that can help reduce recidivism. These problems are complex and deeply rooted. Confronting them requires the kind of creative problem solving and pragmatic partnership the Coalition for Public Safety is founded on—and the commitment to human dignity the Ford Foundation has always stood for.
It’s long past time to fix the American justice system. Consider this:
- The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but we make up 25 percent of the world’s prison population—and 60 percent of the people in our prisons are now racial and ethnic minorities.
- At the federal level, the prison population increased an astounding 790 percent over the last two decades. And 60 percent of those currently incarcerated in federal prisons are nonviolent offenders.
- At the local level, jails process nearly 12 million people per year, and have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Nationally, African Americans are jailed at almost four times the rate of white Americans.
- Our system of mass incarceration and high rates of criminalization costs Americans $80 billion per year, and contributes to a cycle of poverty that traps individuals, families, and entire communities for years.
- Between 70 million and 100 million Americans—or 1 in 3 of us—now have a criminal record, which creates lifelong barriers that can block successful reentry and participation in society because of restrictions on employment, housing, and voting.
The coalition will work across the political spectrum to pursue a comprehensive set of federal, state, and local criminal justice reforms that will reduce jail and prison populations and associated costs, end the systemic problem of criminalization, and ensure swift and fair outcomes for both the accused and the victims. It will make communities safer by reducing recidivism and breaking down the barriers faced by those returning home after detention or incarceration.
Building on our history of working on criminal justice reform and related issues, our role in this ambitious coalition will strengthen our ability to make meaningful, sustainable change.