Justice Reform Working Group

The Philanthropy New York Justice Reform Working Group (JRWG) is open to PNY Members interested in learning more or funding at the intersections of justice reform and other issue areas. If you would like to join the group, please email kroberts@philanthropynewyork.org.

JRWG members also have access to the JRWG email listserv and online discussion group

All Justice Reform Working Group members have the following responsibilities:

  • Attend one annual Working Group meeting
  • Support Working Group-sponsored programs by attending 
  • Use the JRWG listserv to foster an exchange of useful information and nurture the growth of a vibrant learning community

Background and History

In late 2015 and early 2016, Philanthropy New York hosted several members briefings focusing on various aspects of justice reform, including on efforts to end mass incarceration and fundamentally changing police-community relationships. As a result of those briefings, it became apparent that there was a strong and growing interest in justice reform topics among a large variety of funders, and that these issues seemed to be at a pivotal moment in history in which strategically deployed philanthropic resources might make a significant difference.

In response to members' interests in fostering collaboration, PNY organized our 2016 Annual Meeting "Rethinking American Justice" around these issues. The half-day conference was roundly applauded by a large number of our members, many of whom expressed strong interest in working with other funders and continuing to learn about these issues. 

In the months that followed, we worked with several other local issue-based working groups to produce justice themed programs:

As we worked with those groups to develop programs and had conversations with a core group of justice-focused funders, we realized there were several interrelated topics on justice reform that we had not yet explored in PNY programming. We developed a three-part program series "Ending the Criminialization of Poverty":

PNY also held two events that focused on the efforts to close Rikers:

In 2019, the JRWG created a smaller Steering Committee, by invite-only, to focus on the development of working strategies based on the larger JRWG annual discussions. Sub-groups of the committee meet separately on select projects.

We welcome input from any funders interested in these issues.  If you would like to be included in future communications about our justice reform work, please email kroberts@philanthropynewyork.org.

Justice Reform Sector Resources

August, 2017

When Misbehaving Is a Crime - This special report offers a primer on status offenses—misbehaviors that are only illegal because of a person’s age and that unfairly land many kids in the justice system.

June, 2017

America’s 3,283 local jails are the “front door” to mass incarceration. But for too long, county jail systems have operated and grown outside of public view. Vera developed the Incarceration Trends data tool so that Americans could have access to information showing just how large their jails have grown, and who is held inside. Our latest analysis of this data reveals an unexpected and—for many—an unintuitive finding: there has been a dramatic shift in the geography of incarceration. 

May, 2017

Bipartisan-led sentencing reform since the 2008 recession has begun to turn the tide on mass incarceration, and today there are five percent fewer people incarcerated in state prisons than in 2009. Reform is often driven in part by fiscal pressures and, accordingly, budget savings are often an assumed byproduct of downsizing prisons. But while this sometimes happens, it is by no means always the case, according to a new report and accompanying interactive data tool from the Vera Institute of Justice.