Exceptional Nonprofits in Criminal Justice Reform, Part 2

Exceptional Nonprofits in Criminal Justice Reform, Part 2

December 17, 2017

Last year we profiled over two dozen Exceptional Nonprofits in Criminal Justice Reform. These organizations are doing important work to address the interconnected challenges of mass incarceration and structural racism.  

That post has become the most popular story on our website, often ranking at the top of Google for searches like “criminal justice reform nonprofits”. We’ve received many inquiries as a result, and we’re heartened to see the widespread calls for systemic change.

Here are ten more great nonprofits tackling various aspects of criminal justice reform - working to repair harm and rebuild communities.

We hope you’ll join us in supporting these compassionate efforts to create a more humane, just, and peaceful society. Here are the organizations, in their own words:


Defy Ventures

Defy Ventures harnesses the natural talents of currently and formerly incarcerated men, women, and youth and redirect them toward the creation of legal business ventures and careers. Defy offers a suite of services that includes intensive personal and leadership development, competition-based entrepreneurship training, executive mentoring, financial investment, and business incubation. By engaging top corporate executives, investors, and entrepreneurs nationally, Defy catalyzes broad scale personal and economic opportunities for people with criminal histories, and shatters perceptions of one of the most stigmatized and overlooked populations in America.


Dream Corps

The Dream Corps is a social justice accelerator. We back initiatives that close prison doors and open doors of opportunity for all.

The Dream Corps was founded by Van Jones in 2014 to help cutting-edge initiatives grow big enough to impact millions of lives. Our slogan is “21st-century jobs, not jails.” We support economic, environmental and criminal justice innovators – all under one roof. Our shared platform helps leaders create synergies, leapfrog obstacles and maximize impact. Every day, we are reshaping "what’s possible" in the field of social justice.

The Dream Corps finds aspiring leaders who have the courage and determination to tackle America’s toughest challenges. Then we connect them to world-class partners, smart digital tools and national media platforms to help them succeed. 

The Day of Empathy campaign by #cut50 and The Dream Corps highlights the need for #JusticeReformNOW and shares the perspectives of Americans impacted by the current justice system - from survivors of violent crime to those who are addicted to opioids or other drugs and those who mentally ill to incarcerated individuals working to transform themselves, people with a criminal record desperately seeking a second chance, and all community members impacted by crime, public safety, and violence.


Prison University Project

The mission of the Prison University Project (PUP) is to provide excellent higher education to people at San Quentin State Prison; to support increased access to higher education for incarcerated people; and to stimulate public awareness about higher education access and criminal justice.

Associated with PUP, the "Returned Citizen" project helps folks leaving San Quentin to re-enter society by helping them learn to navigate day to day challenges that have changed since they entered the prison system.


Prison Ecology Project

The mission of the Prison Ecology Project is to map the intersections of mass incarceration and environmental degradation, and create action plans to address the multitude of problems found there.

The PE project addresses issues such as: damage of sewage and industrial waste from overpopulated and under-regulated prisons into to water ways; threats to listed species by the ongoing construction and operation of prisons in remote, environmentally-sensitive rural areas; and environmental justice concerns regarding prisoners, staff and surrounding communities.

The Prison Ecology Project campaign is powered by Nation Inside.


Resource, Information, Help for the Disadvantaged & Disenfranchised (RIHD)

Resource, Information, Help for the Disadvantaged & Disenfranchised (RIHD) was founded in 2002 by Lillie Branch-Kennedy, a retired US government career, in response to the barriers she experienced while engaging the criminal justice system on behalf of her son, a first-time offender, sentenced to an egregiously long sentence.

RIHD was formed with other volunteers in similar situation, to educate and empower Virginia families and communities on the negative impact of a racially-disparate system to mass incarceration and provide educational outreach to reduce the level of societal disenfranchisement of people with a criminal record. 

An award-winning all-volunteer statewide organization known for its low-cost transportation service to faraway VA rural prisons, sentencing reform campaign, restoration of civil & voting rights and ban-the-box for fair hiring initiatives that has helped ordinary Virginia to understand and navigate the criminal justice system and bring about necessary reforms.


Yoga Education in Prisons Trust

The Yoga Education in Prisons Trust is a registered charitable trust providing yoga and meditation education for prisoners, in prisons in New Zealand. We recognize that the restrictive environment of a prison may be more conducive to internalisation and contemplation. Therefore it can be regarded as an opportunity to use the time-tested techniques and tools of yoga and meditation for personal growth and well-being.

A safe supportive environment is created by experienced teachers that allows the prisoners to let go of fears and restrictive patterns, explore aspects of themselves that can enhance social integration. 


Root and Rebound

Root & Rebound’s mission is to increase access to justice and opportunity for people in reentry from prison and jail, and to educate and empower those who support them, fundamentally advancing and strengthening the reentry infrastructure across the state of California. 

Root & Rebound envisions a world where people in reentry have the opportunity and resources available to become productive and valued members of our community.


Community Works

Community Works helps clients and their families access the inner power to work and live to their full potential. We use our insights on lasting change to keep people out of prison, advocate for a more humane justice system, and support healthy communities for all of us.

It is often our client alumni themselves who step into the role of advocating for policy change, taking their healing and empowerment to the next level.

We call this translational justice


National Incarceration Association (NIA)

The National Incarceration Association (NIA) was born from the personal story of Kate Boccia and her husband Frank. Their son Daniel is incarcerated in a medium security prison in Georgia. 

Kate openly reflects on that moment of the night they first received “the call” alarming them that their child had been arrested. Her “journey” was suddenly the same as a growing quiet number of tens of millions of American families.

The NIA is now a conglomerate of compassionate business people, devoted community advocates, seasoned public policy strategists and professional service providers. The NIA seeks to highlight the stories of a representative number of those tens of millions of families. Through the perspective of these families the NIA works to reduce the economic costs and social impact of status quo criminal justice policies and practices.


Abolitionist Law Center

The Abolitionist Law Center is a public interest law firm inspired by the struggle of political and politicized prisoners, and organized for the purpose of abolishing class and race based mass incarceration in the United States. To accomplish this goal, the Abolitionist Law Center engages in litigation on behalf of people whose human rights have been violated in prison, produces educational programs to inform the general public about the evils of mass incarceration, and works to develop a mass movement against the American penal system by building alliances and nurturing solidarity across social divisions.

The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) is a collaboration with the Abolitionist Law Center. FTP’s mission is to conduct grassroots organizing, advocacy and direct action to challenge the prison system which is putting prisoners at risk of dangerous environmental conditions, as well as impacting surrounding communities and ecosystems by their construction and operation. 


Exceptional Exceptions to the Rulers

Exceptional Exceptions to the Rulers

WWF-NZ Conservation Innovation Awards

WWF-NZ Conservation Innovation Awards