The Art for Justice Fund Announces $22 Million in Grants to Address Mass Incarceration




NEW YORK, November 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Art for Justice Fund, launched earlier this year with a $100 million donation from philanthropist Agnes Gund, today announced the first round of grant recipients in the areas of criminal justice reform and the arts. With awards ranging from $100,000 to $7.5 million, a total of $22 million was awarded to 30 innovative programs that seek to safely reduce prison populations, strengthen education and employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated people, and humanize people affected by the criminal justice system.

The Art for Justice Fund, created by Ms. Gund in partnership with the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, is a five-year initiative that uniquely connects the ingenuity of criminal justice advocates and the creativity of artists to address the crisis of mass incarceration in America.

“My hope is that the work supported by the Art for Justice Fund will help create a groundswell that drives reforms well beyond these specific programs,” said Agnes Gund. “The problem of mass incarceration touches every community across the country, and we need to work together to find creative solutions to build a better, safer future for all our children.”

Key Objectives of the Art for Justice Fund
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with more than 2.2 million people in prisons and detention centers. Low-income people of color are most likely to be arrested and sentenced to prison, and women are the fastest rising sector of the prison population. Mass incarceration deepens poverty by removing wage-earning mothers and fathers from distressed neighborhoods, and leads to devastating outcomes for the children left behind.

To reverse this harmful trend, the Art for Justice Fund seeks to achieve five key objectives:

  • Reform prosecutorial and bail practices that result in unnecessary jail detention, particularly for low-income people;
  • Reform or repeal excessive prison sentences, and reinvest prison savings into crime prevention and community-based rehabilitation;
  • Improve pathways to education and employment for people coming home from prison;
  • Enable artists and writers to bear witness to the injustices of mass incarceration, and humanize those caught in the system; and,
  • Use the arts to divert young people from prison, and to help people who are incarcerated build creative skills and share their experiences.

“The Art for Justice Fund invests in organizations and artists doing critical work to advance criminal justice reform,” said Helena Huang, project director for the Art for Justice Fund. “Over the next five years, we aim to reduce our country’s harmful reliance on prisons and jails, and instead to increase community investments in health and public safety.”

Among the 30 grants announced today are:

  • Color of Change, a nationwide online racial justice organization, which will educate and mobilize Americans about the need for bail reform.
  • Alliance for Safety and Justice, a national organization working at the state level to reduce incarceration and advance a balanced approach to public safety that emphasizes crime prevention, rehabilitation, and support for crime survivors.
  • Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, a nonprofit legal organization working to expand its successful “Ban the Box” initiative across the country and to restore the rights of formerly incarcerated people to reunify with family members.
  • National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to enhance the cultural value of great writing, which will launch a “Literature for Justice” program focused on mass incarceration.
  • The Actors’ Gang, a nonprofit theatre group in California leading arts-based wellness programs for women, men, and young people who are currently or formerly incarcerated, as well as correctional staff.

“The funding provided through the Art for Justice Fund to our organization will help us build on our proven grassroots strategies and mobilize even greater numbers of individuals, organizations, and networks to further accelerate the pace of change,” said Robert Rooks, vice president at the Alliance for Safety and Justice.

To date, nearly 30 additional donors have joined Ms. Gund in giving or committing to give additional substantial donations to the Art for Justice Fund. The next round of grant awards is planned for the spring of 2018.

To view the full list of grantees, visit


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About the Art for Justice Fund
The Art for Justice Fund is a five-year initiative created to support innovative advocacy and program interventions aimed at safely reducing prison populations in key states, strengthening education and employment opportunities post-prison, and supporting artistic initiatives that bear witness to and humanize the experiences of those impacted by the system. For more information, visit

About the Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is providing expertise on program design and covering the operating costs of the Art for Justice Fund so that 100 percent of donated dollars go directly to programming and grants. The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. For more information, visit

About Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors is providing programmatic support and fiscal sponsorship for the Art for Justice Fund. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors is a nonprofit with a successful record of managing and advising on complex, multi-million dollar philanthropic projects. With offices in New York, Chicago, London, Los Angeles and San Francisco, RPA partners with individuals, families and institutions to help make philanthropy more thoughtful and effective. For more information, visit