FEX Donor Makes Challenge Gift for Criminal Justice Initiative

More than 2.1 million people are imprisoned in the United States, which has the highest inmate population in the world. Unfortunately, the rate of prison growth and incarceration shows no decline, mainly as a result of mandatory minimum sentencing and draconian drug laws. One Funding Exchange donor has offered to pay the administrative overhead for the Criminal Justice Initiative if we are able to raise $200,000 for grantmaking. Right now, we need $60,000 to meet this goal. So please support the Criminal Justice Initiative with a gift of $1,000, $5,000 or more.

About 1.5 million children have parents who are currently incarcerated. And one in eight African American men in their twenties and early thirties is in prison.

We believe there are better alternatives to the government’s flagrant waste of taxpayer resources ($147 billion per year) and to the barbarism of the prison-industrial complex. The Funding Exchange needs your support to find real solutions to address the problems of the existing criminal justice system.

Donors in our Criminal Justice Initiative Circle play a key role in securing and promoting a progressive, grassroots response to the expanding prison industry. You may choose to participate in grantmaking meetings and conferences, or you may decide to support the important work of this circle of activists and donors with your generous contribution.

The Criminal Justice Initiative provides grants to social justice organizations throughout the country to resist prison expansion and its disproportionate impact on low-income communities, women, people of color and other disenfranchised populations.

Since 2001, the Funding Exchange has raised $417,000 for the Criminal Justice Initiative and awarded 23 grants to organizations throughout the nation. In 2002 and 2005, we brought together our grantees, donors and activist panel members in a cross-race, cross-class dialogue to refine organizing strategies and pinpoint corresponding funding opportunities.

For activists and organizers in the criminal justice field, the last few years have not been easy. The criminal justice system continues to incarcerate record numbers of people, fetter political dissent and usher in a new wave of fear, intolerance and brutality.

This year our program goal is to raise $200,000 to support criminal justice organizing. Your gift to the Criminal Justice Initiative will help us reach this critical goal and build on important work we’ve accomplished in recent years.

We have funded organizations such as GirlTalk in Chicago, Illinois. This group is run for and by formerly incarcerated young women, and brings visibility to the impact of incarceration and prison policies on their lives, families and communities.

Another grantee is Families & Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) which successfully organized to shut down a juvenile detention center in Tallulah, Louisiana, and is now working in coalition to turn the center into an educational institution as part of an economic revitalization plan.

“People said it could never happen,” said Grace Bauer, a member of FFLIC whose son spent time in Louisiana’s youth prisons. “But people underestimate the power of compassion and a commitment to justice.” On June 4, 2004 the Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth closed its doors to children.

At our recent meeting in May 2005, we heard the urgent call of our grantees “to raise more money.” One Funding Exchange donor has stepped up to the plate and agreed to pay the administrative overhead for the Criminal Justice Initiative if we are able to raise $200,000 for grantmaking.

Right now, we are approximately $60,000 away from this goal.