PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia today announced that the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Cluster’s Office of Criminal Justice will award twenty microgrants to community organizations that support the criminal justice reform efforts of the Kenney Administration. These grants of up to $10,000 are designed to advance racial equity in the criminal justice system and safely reduce the local jail population. The Criminal Justice Microgrant Fund will be administered by the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia. Resources for this effort are provided by the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge.
The Criminal Justice Microgrant Fund is supporting organizations that advance criminal justice reform from a policy perspective, directly engage Philadelphia’s communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system in the reform work, and/or provide support services to individuals impacted by the system as a whole. These grants will support the continuation of existing criminal justice reform efforts and new projects and/or innovative approaches to criminal justice reform.
“From the beginning of our Administration, we have worked to end mass incarceration and address systemic racism that causes significant harm to our Black and Brown communities,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “These grants double down on our commitment to bringing about just and safe reform.”
Twenty community organizations received a combined total of approximately $200,000 in funding, with individual grants ranging from $4,800 to $10,000. The programs being funded include both new and existing efforts ranging from career skill-building, mentorship, and help for returning citizens reconnecting to their communities. The funding also directly supports workshops and “safe spaces” for young people who are at risk of encountering the criminal justice system.
“These grants underscore the importance of the City’s recent realignment of criminal justice reform and public safety work into a holistic approach,” said Erica Atwood, Senior Director for the Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety.
“With this funding, we are making sure the solutions to decades of oppression are spread across multiple organizations, while elevating the voice of the community. The grant application process, which opened with letters of intent on September 22, 2020 and closed November 3, 2020, brought in 42 applications. Organizations that were invited to submit a full proposal did so by February 21, 2021. A collaborative grants committee made up of diverse representatives from criminal justice partner agencies and the Community Advisory Committee completed a robust selection process, from which 20 awardees were chosen.
“The Community Advisory Committee is very excited for the first round of microgrant awards. We recognize that more funding is needed for our City’s non-profit organizations engaged in work that directly impacts the criminal justice system and provides services to justice involved persons,” said Brittany Weston, Vice-chair of the Community Advisory Committee.
“This is a strong first step in supporting community-based leadership and programs that directly impact positive change in the justice system. The CAC continues to be available to the community and any organization interested in learning more about the microgrants process and our work to address the missions of the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge.”
These grants will be more than one-time investments. Selected organizations will be part of a collective network, coming together to bring about real change in Philadelphia’s criminal justice system. Throughout the grant year, the Office of Criminal Justice will provide networking opportunities, capacity building training sessions, and engagement opportunities through the Safety and Justice Challenge reform effort. The Criminal Justice Microgrant Fund will forge meaningful, lasting partnerships that allow for information sharing and problem-solving and will address the needs of the communities we serve.
The grants come days after the CJPS Office of Reentry Partnerships announced $60,000 in funding for recipients of the Reentry Solutions Microgrants for Community Engagement which bring together grassroots community organizations and City government to better handle the numerous challenges faced by Philadelphians released from incarceration and those under county probation or parole supervision.
This reentry program, combined with the $400,000 of support for the Targeted Community Investment Grants for violence reduction, emphasize the Administration’s multi-pronged and holistic approach to both public safety and systemic reforms that are informed by decades of oppression, racism and poverty faced by People of Color.
*The following biographies are of MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge Criminal Justice Microgrant Fund Grantees.
|Career Wardrobe (dba The Wardrobe): For people experiencing barriers to employment and independence, clothing insecurity is real. It can mean not having anything to wear or not having the right thing to wear. Both are barriers to advancement. The Wardrobe provides a stable source of well-maintained and displayed clothing that is suitable for any need, from casual to workwear. While the clothing is available for sale, it is also free to anyone referred, and The Wardrobe consultation experience is priceless. MacArthur Safety and Justice Microgrant Funds will be used to make clothing services free to both partners assisting returning citizens and individuals themselves who do not have access to a referral.|
|Redemption Housing: Redemption Housing is a transformational housing program, seeking to address the cycle of recidivism through safe and affordable transitional housing, holistic programming and healthy relationships? Microgrant funding will help sustain Locust House (a 4 -bedroom fully furnished home in West Philadelphia with supportive services for returning citizens). The funds will also support a new initiative called Connecting Congregations to support programming involving mentorship, and client identified goals in the areas of health, education, family reunification and long-term housing.|
|Temple University – Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program: Since its inception, Inside-Out has been the international leader in shared learning in prisons (i.e. inside and outside students studying collaboratively). The importance of the work can be summarized in Inside-Out’s central tenets. 1) Currently or formerly incarcerated people deserve an opportunity to take college classes. 2) In order to raise questions about and, therefore, shift our thinking around incarceration, more people need to meet those who are or have been incarcerated. 3) Finally, the power of dialogue across difference is a hallmark of all Inside-Out activities. After 23 years of The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program conducts college classes, instructor training, and meetings in person and in prisons, they have shifted their approach in response to the pandemic. The organization has designed a 3-pronged initiative that is mission driven but responsive to the current reality, incorporating meetings and classes using technology. Support from this Microgrant will help flesh out the critical components of these novel new approaches.|
|PA Prison Society: For 234 years the Society’s mission has been to end abuse and neglect behind bars. In furtherance of this mission Pennsylvania’s law allows Prison Society volunteers to visit and privately interview anyone in county custody. Every month more than 250 incarcerated people ask the Society for help with issues they face inside the prison, after which volunteers help respond, clear up miscommunications, elevate issues to prison officials, spot trends and advocate for change. This microgrant will allow the society to leverage technology and proven community organizing tactics to expand and enhance the impact through their Strengthening Citizen Engagement in Improving Conditions at Philadelphia Prisons initiative.|
|The Liberation Foundation: Founded by Terrance Lewis, a wrongfully convicted juvenile lifer, The Liberation Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for incarcerated people seeing legal representation. The founding mission is to secure justice and freedom for disproportionately sentenced folks through advocacy and support work. Microgrant funds will support Project HOPE, which matches incarcerated people who claim innocence with pro-bono legal representation and provides workshops for incarcerated Pennsylvanians to prepare them to come home. The funds will specifically support the partnership development with private practices law firms to increase the network of volunteers.|
|SHOOTERS: Narrative Shift: Combats the mainstream criminal justice narrative through innovative multi-media and transformation initiatives. SHOOTERS equip those with lived experience, in particular those that sit at the intersection of poverty and criminal justice, with additional tools to shift their lives and the systems that influence them. Founded in 2014 and officially incorporated as a PA nonprofit organization in 2019, SHOOTERS assist justice-involved individuals overcome their self-limiting beliefs, redefine their narratives, and increase their employment opportunities. Microgrants would support efforts to address digital divide and remote learning in light of COVID-19 while cultivating a nurturing creative space for nontraditional storytellers.|
|Unincarcerated Minds: Unincarcerated Minds lnc.’s mission is to provide socioeconomic opportunity to incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and marginalized community members who are impacted by mass incarceration. Unincarcerated Minds provides employment opportunities through our various relationships with many local businesses such as Brown’s ShopRite and Live Hotel and Casino. Unincarcerated Minds provides a work readiness and life plan program, to help returning citizens with resume building, employment and life skills/goal setting. Microgrant funds will support a program called Unincarcerated Minds Feed the People. The goal of this program is to address the issues of feeding marginalized communities as well as encouraging community engagement.|
|I’m FREE – Females Reentering Empowering Each other Inc.: I’m FREE helps incarcerated women transition back into society by providing coaching training and care services. The target population are women currently and formerly incarcerated and those returning from state/federal prison facilities. Microgrant funds will support their ability to digitize the curriculum as a result of COVID-19 and expand the services they can provide to the women they serve.|
|Students Run Philly Style: SRPS transforms students’ lives through running and mentorship. SRPS uses mentoring, Running and goal setting as a catalyst for positive change, helping youth navigate physical social and economic barriers to build their own path to success. Microgrants would fund the MileUP program which is an evidence-based model offered in partnership with the District Attorney’s office to serve youth involved in the juvenile Justice system. MileUP is an alternative for youth facing misdemeanor and felony charges (youth formerly ineligible for diversion).|
|The Reawakening Agency: The mission of The Reawakening Agency is to assist incarcerated individuals with a successful transition back into their communities after they are released from prison. The Reawakening Agency has developed a system delivered in three phases that address issues that impact individuals returning from prison.
Phase 1: Support services offered inside of prisons
Microgrant funds will support the community engagement program which is part of Phase 2 support and is accomplished through community volunteerism and connection. Additionally, this program provides an opportunity for neighborhoods to see our participants beyond their criminal past. The end goal is that participants will learn social skills that help them to navigate situations that were previously obstacles, while also developing marketable job skills.
|Unsolved Murders in Philadelphia: Unsolved Murders in Philadelphia is a family-owned and operated non-profit agency founded by Isaac Gardner, a formerly incarcerated community activist, to improve the quality of justice for all Philadelphians impacted by the criminal justice system. Unsolved Murders achieves its mission by using a victim-centered approach to link families impacted by violence with each other for support, to participate in violence prevention programming in their community, and to partner with law enforcement in the investigation of the crime committed against their loved one. Microgrant funds will support the violence prevention programming for youth, aged 12 through 24 with a trauma history, who are at-risk to engage in or become the victim of violence. This program will provide 10 vulnerable children with a stipend supplemented 6-week community building summer experience in exchange for 8 to 10 hours of weekly services to benefit disabled and elderly neighbors, plan and host Safe Spaces for youth to gather on Friday nights, and participate in and help organize a city-wide memorial basketball tournament in honor of people loved ones lost to violence.|
|F.I.R.E: The mission of F.I.R.E. is to create positive outlets for youth regardless of age, race, gender, background through mentoring and presence. Microgrant funds would support a new program called the Forge, which focuses on mentoring young males who come from vulnerable, disparaging situations and environments. The Forge is based on the premise of brotherhood for youth black and grown boys to establish meaningful connections with other male mentors who can offer experience, guidance, wisdom and serve as positive male authoritative figures.|
|Women in Dialogue (winD): WinD is a non-profit community-based organization that focuses on recognition of and support for all women’s contributions to the economy and society, including that of essential caregiving and justice work. WinD tackles the poverty of women and children who are 70% of the poor in Philadelphia, which makes the community vulnerable to the criminal justice and child welfare systems. Microgrant funds will be used to support the Crossroads Women’s Center which offers support to loved ones facing the criminal justice system and those facing the child welfare system. Support includes strategizing on cases, strengthening each other’s efforts, amplifying our voices and advocating for policy changes and poverty reduction resources.|
|Trapdoor Inc.: The mission of Trapdoor Inc. is to develop a more conscious approach to everyday life decisions and experiences for inner-city youth. Trapdoor Inc. understands that experiences lead to thoughts and thoughts lead to behaviors/actions and actions lead to positive/negative outcomes. Trapdoor Inc. believes a holistic approach to mindfulness and physical activity will teach the youth how to regulate their emotions and not lash out or make risky decisions. Microgrant funds will help Trapdoor Inc. partner with yoga/meditation centers and instructors, chess teachers (mental focus) and health food programs across the city.|
|Philly Audio Diaries of Culture Trust Greater Philadelphia: The mission of Philly Audio Diaries is based in poverty alleviation and policy change. Philly Audio Diaries students are paid for their work. We offer stipends to all students who complete the prompt of producing one story. Teachers also continue on as mentors for the students for a year after the internship has ended. The criminal justice season of our podcast, “Off Mic,” will tell the stories of black and brown youth who have been impacted by the school to prison pipeline, mass incarceration and over-policing.
Microgrant funds will be used to produce a special season of our show. This season will feature stories from young people who have been affected by the criminal justice system. These young people will be recruited from El Centro de Estudiantes. Each episode will concern one student’s story, and then in-depth reporting about a specific issue or angle connected to their story. This second step will involve speaking to experts, other young people impacted by the criminal justice system, and additional field reporting. Each story will be broadcasted on the podcast and on broadcast partners like NPR affiliates and WPPM to meet the goal of giving youth storytellers a stronger influence in society.
|Dimplez 4 Dayz, Inc.: In 2016, 13 year-old Akayla Brown founded Dimplez 4 Dayz, a youth-led non-profit dedicated to empowering youth voices and reducing youth violence in Philadelphia by promoting the resources and programs that can enable young people to build confidence and to fulfill their potential. The meaning behind the name and the cause is to support and encourage individuals to smile beyond adversity, turning dreams into reality. Microgrant funds will support the implementation of a 4 -week program to provide educational, employment and training services for at risk youth returning from juvenile detention and residential treatment facilities.|
|Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project: The Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) was established in 2014 with the explicit goal of reimagining the way that youth are treated by the adult criminal justice system in Philadelphia. YSRP’s model disrupts the way that primarily Black, and Brown youth are traditionally treated in the criminal justice system. This is done by enhancing the representation they receive, expanding the information on which they are judged, and providing access to opportunities that draw on young people’s strengths, needs and future goals. At its core, YSRP believes that children do not belong in adult jails and prisons, and that the policies and processes that lead to charging youth as if they were adults are rooted in racial injustice and a deeply flawed criminal justice system. Microgrant funds will support the continued implementation of YSRP’s case advocacy model, which consists of Mitigation and Reentry Support. Two additional components of the reentry support will be implemented by YSRP’s Reentry Coordinators in 2021: Mutual Responsibility Agreements (MRAs) and Intergenerational Healing Circles (IGHCs).|
|First Step Staffing: First Step Staffing’s program is designed to connect those recently incarcerated and at-risk of becoming homeless with a focus on clear pathways to employment that include jobs first as part of that career pathway. Working with community partners, the project combines rapid re-housing, rapid employment, supportive services, and targeted skills training to help individuals transition from homelessness into stable housing. This ‘earn and learn’ model creates opportunities for job placements, job retention, and advancement. Microgrant funds will support the implementation of The Second Step Program, which is designed to employ marginalized men and women, with high barriers to employment; specifically, homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals, at-risk of becoming homeless.|
|People Advancing Reintegration, Inc.: PAR-Recycle Works is a job training program that incorporates best practices from the reentry and workforce development fields and is driven by employer demand. The program is pro-social, being run almost entirely by returning citizens and accommodating their needs in ways that conventional employers do not; is incentive-based, providing paid employment and opportunities for advancement within the organization; is long-term, lasting up to 6 – 9 months, with the employees being mentored in the entire job search process when they are deemed job-ready. Microgrant funds will support PAR-Recycle Works in its ability to sustain a transitional employment model to prepare participants for permanent full-time employment.|
|New Leash on Life USA: New Leash on Life USA (New Leash)’s mission to reduce recidivism and save the lives of at-risk dogs. This is accomplished with an innovative reform model that leverages the powerful bond between dogs and humans. The model begins during incarceration with a training program that teaches practical life and social-emotional skills and extends to high-quality case management upon release. Through this comprehensive approach, men and women prepare for a successful transition as they reenter society.
Microgrant funds will support a new Young Adult Reentry Program to implement an Animal Assisted Therapy model with dogs from the city’s animal shelter (ACCT) to provide a combination of Human Animal Bond Theory, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and individual counseling using Motivational Interviewing. Participants will receive individual case management, job development, and referrals to Substance Use Disorder treatment including Peer Recovery Support from a Certified Recovery Specialist.