Jan 27, 2021 · 7 min read

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Announces $450 Million to Accelerate Criminal Justice & Immigration Reform


Editor’s Note: This release has been updated to include the new organization name for our criminal justice reform strategic partner, The Just Trust (previously known as The Justice Accelerator Fund).

As we noted in our Annual Letter last month, five years into our journey here at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) we’ve learned a great deal about how we can sharpen our impact and help our partners create a better future for everyone.

2020 accelerated so many of these lessons. As a team, we were at turns heartbroken by the dual impact of this pandemic (especially on those most vulnerable) and the long overdue reckoning on racial injustice — then, filled with energy and hope by the work of our grantees and teammates who pivoted to help meet this moment and do right by the communities we serve.

This past year made it clear once again that there was — and is — no time to waste. Now more than ever, we need to be clear-sighted, to listen to those closest to the issues, and do what our partners and the work require in this moment. To that end, we’re making some changes related to the work in our Justice & Opportunity Initiative, in order to accelerate and better support reform efforts in criminal justice and immigration.

Deepening CZI’s Commitment to Criminal Justice Reform

Announcing the launch of a new criminal justice reform organization — with a commitment of $350 million

CZI’s work in the criminal justice reform space has grown rapidly since it launched just a few years ago— we are now one of the largest funders of criminal justice reform advocacy efforts in the country, having committed $164 million in funding to frontline organizations to date. We are heartened and incredibly proud of this team and body of work, which has included efforts to bring more accountability and transparency to prosecutorial practices; supported movements like the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted Peoples and Family Movement; and helped lead record clearing campaigns like the Clean Slate Initiative, which has led to millions of Americans having their criminal records cleared.

At a pivotal moment for criminal justice reform in this country, we want to help empower this work even more through the launch of a new and independent organization — the The Just Trust. With an initial investment of $350 million over the next five years, The Just Trust will focus exclusively on criminal justice advocacy efforts, powering a broader community of leaders and organizations doing this work across the country and across political divides. It will fund efforts that put community health, safety and healing over punishment; that center racial and economic equity; and that include those most impacted at the heart of the movement for reform.

The Just Trust will be helmed by Ana Zamora, CZI’s current Director of Criminal Justice Reform. Prior to leading CZI’s criminal justice reform strategy, Zamora spent more than a decade leading criminal justice reform advocacy efforts at the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as a campaign manager for two major California ballot measures on criminal justice reform. CZI will initially be the primary funder of this new organization at its founding, but as the organization grows its mission will be to broaden the diverse coalition for reform and bring on additional mission-aligned funders in the space.

“At a time when serious criminal justice reform is happening across the U.S., but when more than 2.3 million Americans remain incarcerated and upwards of 100 million more live with the burdens of a criminal record, I am both honored and filled with urgency to help lead a new organization that is laser focused on redesigning our criminal legal system with people, community health and safety, and equity at its core,” said Ana Zamora. “Mark and Priscilla’s support for this work has been unwavering — and this latest investment to double down and create a more nimble, movement-grounded advocacy organization will help super-charge this work at a pivotal time in our country.”

In the months ahead, The Just Trust will also announce an independent Board of Advisors to help guide this work as it becomes operational, which will be composed of key leaders and experts in the field. Over the course of 2021, The Just Trust will take over CZI’s existing criminal justice reform grant relationships.

“This is a very exciting day for criminal justice reform, and for the diverse field of directly impacted leaders, organizations, and advocates that are working so hard for change,” said Chloe Cockburn, who leads Criminal Justice Reform at Open Philanthropy. “This unprecedented, long-term commitment from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is arriving at just the right moment. It will provide critically needed resources to this field’s strong, growing infrastructure, and sends a signal to existing and potential investors in this work that the time to ramp up is now. I look forward to partnering with Ana Zamora, who I have known for years as a brilliant, highly experienced advocate who is laser-focused on achieving impact and knows how to get it done.”

“This is a long time coming,” said Norris Henderson, Founder and Executive Director of Voice of the Experienced. “I’m thrilled that organizations on the front lines will be resourced in accordance with our track record. Formerly incarcerated people have reversed Jim Crow-era laws; we have written legislation that is upending mass incarceration. We are revitalizing our democracy by encouraging the 70-100 million system-impacted Americans to become civically engaged. Philanthropy is putting its money where its mouth is by prioritizing those closest to the problem and, therefore, the solutions.”

Powering Immigration Reform

$100 million investment to FWD.us over the next three years

CZI remains committed to policy change and advocacy work, and will continue to expand and support these types of investments through grants to third-party advocacy organizations like The Just Trust and FWD.us — the immigration and criminal justice reform advocacy organization that Mark and Priscilla helped to launch in 2013. FWD.us has played a critical role in the past few years in successfully protecting the DACA program, as well as fighting family separation and reuniting families, and will help lead the charge in 2021 to transform America’s immigration system into one that’s fair, modern and humane, and centered on a pathway to citizenship. They will continue to do this alongside their critical criminal justice work that has delivered huge wins in the fight against mass incarceration in the past few years.

To that end, CZI’s current immigration portfolio will move to FWD.us to help support that organization’s agenda at a critical time for national reform – with a window to achieve historic wins. CZI is announcing a new $100 million grant to FWD to super-charge their work over the next three years.

With large and expanding Science and Education Initiatives — which include dedicated technology teams and multiple lines of programmatic grantmaking — and increased urgency to respond to Community and Housing needs in the wake of the pandemic, CZI will continue to focus on its core strengths of grantmaking and issue advocacy, community collaboration, impact investing, and technology development.

To date, CZI has granted more than $2.8 billion to its work in Science, Education, Housing, Criminal Justice Reform, and Immigration and through the direct giving of its Community team.

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About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across our issue areas, we’re pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

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