Formerly Incarcerated Leaders are Paving the Road for Change

Apr 23, 2019

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September 2018. Members of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM) gather in Florida to discuss ideas for reform.

At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we want to help the diverse and growing criminal justice reform movement flourish, which includes ensuring that those closest to the problem have the tools and resources needed to lead its transformation.

This year for Second Chances Month, we’re proud to announce eight new grants to organizations not only led by formerly incarcerated individuals, but who are also working hard to ensure that people with histories of incarceration can actively participate in reform.

  • Voice of The Experienced: A grassroots organization founded and run by formerly incarcerated people, their families, and allies, dedicated to restoring the full human and civil rights of those most impacted by the criminal justice system. Norris Henderson is the Executive Director.
  • National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls: A group dedicated to ending mass incarceration of women and girls. The organization, led by Andrea James, runs a membership-based platform that provides technical support, complex coalition building, and comprehensive resources that assist local initiatives toward a shared goal.
  • Legal Services for Prisoners with Children: LSPC (All of Us or None) is led by Dorsey Nunn, and organizes communities impacted by the criminal justice system and advocates to release incarcerated people, to restore human and civil rights, and to reunify families and communities.
  • Forward Justice: A nonpartisan law, policy, and strategy center co-led by Daryl Atkinson, Forward Justice is dedicated to advancing racial, social, and economic justice in the U.S. South. CZI is supporting their work to reduce incarceration and to advance Clean Slate reform specifically in North Carolina, which would automatically clear certain criminal records over time.
  • Florida Rights Restoration Coalition: The FRRC is a grassroots membership organization run by returning citizens–including their President, Desmond Meade–who are dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement of and discrimination against people with convictions.
  • Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice: CURYJ builds community relationships and mobilizes young leaders to organize and create the movement to end mass incarceration and youth criminalization. The group was founded by leaders who lived through the impacts of systemic violence and incarceration, and who set out to beautify their neighborhood, engage youth in the area and coordinate pro-bono legal defense for local defendants in the Fruitvale gang injunctions. George Galvis is the Executive Director.
  • College & Community Fellowship: Run by Vivian Nixon, College & Community Fellowship is an organization that enables women with criminal convictions to earn their college degrees so that they, their families, and their communities can thrive.
  • Anti-Recidivism Coalition: The mission of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) is to change lives and create safe, healthy communities by providing a support and advocacy network for and by formerly incarcerated men and women. ARC, and Executive Director Shaka Senghor, advocates for fair policies in the juvenile and criminal justice systems and provides a supportive network and reentry services to formerly incarcerated individuals.

“I’m here now because I know that any movement has to be led by the people who are most intimately invested…they’re the ones who’ve got skin in the game,” said Daryl Atkinson, Co-Director of Forward Justice. “Together, we have to end the bad thing — mass incarceration and racial injustice — but we also have to set up an infrastructure where we can really have that beloved community that we want to see.”

Aly Tamboura, Criminal Justice Reform Manager at CZI during a visit back to San Quentin in 2018

Many of these groups are also part of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM), another partner of CZI. We celebrate the impactful work of FICPFM members, which includes the passage of Amendment 2 in Louisiana that did away with non-unanimous juries.

I feel strongly that lifting up the collective stories of incarcerated people is my duty,” said Aly Tamboura, Criminal Justice Reform Manager at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, who leads CZI’s work with formerly incarcerated leaders. “I hope to move our society past the sensationalism of crime and punishment to a realization of the damage this system inflicts on real people and our country overall. I am sharing my own story honestly and openly, without shame or embarrassment, in the hope that it will inspire other formerly incarcerated people to recognize their own potential,  and create fair chances for them to positively contribute to–and lead–our communities.”

These new grants come on the heels of additional announcements earlier this month, celebrating CZI’s support of organizations working to make real second chances possible.