Organization Trends

Soft Eyes for Criminal Justice Solutions: Big Winners

Soft Eyes for Criminal Justice Solutions (full series)
Nonprofit Donations | A Tale of Four Cities | The Soros Prosecutors
Status Quo Supporters | Big Winners | Soft Eyes for Solutions

Big Winners

Of the big gusher of criminal justice reform money flowing against this status quo since 2020, a lot of it has washed over the advocacy group, and the Education Fund, its educational arm. The pair of criminal justice reform and immigration expansion nonprofits are funded primarily by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Donor Advised Fund. These are in turn the funding vehicles of billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The criminal justice program has produced reports encouraging “media to drop harmful labels such as ‘felon,’ ‘offender,’ and ‘inmate’ from their reporting” because this “perpetuates false and dangerous stereotypes, artificially inflates support for mass incarceration, and dampens the impact of much-needed critiques of the criminal justice system.”

From 2018 through 2021, the funders associated with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative awarded grants totaling more than $227.8 million to the pair of nonprofits—$135 million of it since 2020.

Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation reported total revenue of $241.8 million in 2021, more than $146 million higher than its 2016 revenue. Since 2016 the ACLU Foundation has received nearly $9 million from JPB, $6.3 million from Wellspring, $5.6 million from Robert Wood Johnson, $4.8 million from Ford, $3.5 million from Network for Good, $2.8 million from MacArthur, $Z.Z million from Rockefeller, and $1.9 million from the Arabella-advised Hopewell Fund.

The Vera Institute of Justice had total revenue of $177.9 million in 2020, more than double its 2016 revenue.

“Vera is committed to dismantling the current culture of policing and working toward solutions that defund police and shift power to communities,” said the group’s president, in a June 2020 policy statement. “We need to support the outrage we’re seeing—in the streets, in our communities, and in the media—while investing in long-term solutions.”

Ford and FPOS have each individually given more than $10 million to Vera since 2016. MacArthur and Arnold gave more than $8 million each. JPB, Rockefeller, Robert Wood Johnson and Public Welfare were all good for at least $1 million apiece.

One of the major issue areas of the William J. Brennan Center for Justice is headlined “End Mass Incarceration.”

“Mass incarceration rips apart families and communities, disproportionately hurts people of color, and costs taxpayers $260 billion a year,” said the group’s policy statement on this point:

At the same time, crime continues to drop to 30-year lows—and harsh punishments aren’t the reason. The Brennan Center works to expose the huge social and economic costs of mass incarceration. We debunk false claims about rising crime. We fight for reforms to sentencing and bail.

In 2020, Brennan reported revenue of $84.5 million, nearly six times more the group’s revenue in 2016. Big institutional donors since 2016 have included Ford ($9.4 million), JPB ($4.5 million), Foundation to Promote Open Society ($4 million), Network for Good ($2 million), Arnold ($1.3 million), Arabella’s New Venture ($1.2 million), MacArthur ($600,000) and Wellspring ($340,000).

The Leadership Conference Education Fund’s policing reform report began with the assertion that “hundreds of thousands of police officers report for duty every day, with a mission to keep us safe and protect us from harm” and “respond to violent crime, mental health and developmental disability crises, people with substance use disorders, interpersonal conflicts and intimate partner violence, mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and other tragedies that afflict our nation.” The report included an acknowledgment that the authors are “grateful to the majority of these officers who carry out this mission with dignity and honor, and especially to those who give their lives to the cause.”

Some of the proposed reforms in the report included increased training for police and a greater focus on community policing (integrating officers closely with the people in the communities they patrol). The agenda of this left-leaning group is to smartly and thoughtfully fund the police, rather than defund them.

The Leadership Conference reported total revenue of $46.6 million in 2020, more than four times the 2016 total. Donations from major criminal justice funders since 2016 have included $11.9 million from Robert Wood Johnson, $10.3 million from Ford, $5.2 million from JPB, $2.3 million from Wellspring, $2.2 million from FPOS, $1.8 million from New Venture Fund, and $750,000 from MacArthur.

Similarly, the Alliance for Safety and Justice and its advocacy arm, the Alliance for Safety and Justice Action Fund, are subsidiaries of the Tides Nexus. Known funders since 2016 have included Open Philanthropy ($17 million), Chan Zuckerberg ($3.5 million), Ford ($2.1 million), FPOS ($1.8 million) and Public Welfare ($1.1 million).

In a list of claimed successes, ASJ boasts of expunging the criminal records of six million people; restoring voting rights to one million; reducing the incarcerated, parolee, and probation population by 300,000; bringing victim compensation and assistance to 500,000 victims; and redirecting $1.5 billion “from prisons and punishment to safety solutions like victim services, violence prevention, mental health treatment, reentry and diversion.”

In the next installment, some groups are doing good work in criminal justice.

Ken Braun

Ken Braun is CRC’s senior investigative researcher and authors profiles for and the Capital Research magazine. He previously worked for several free market policy organizations, spent six…
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