With disturbing incidents involving law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri and New York fresh in our minds, criminal justice reform is becoming a bigger priority for many funders around the country. But it's been a top priority for one funder in the Bay Area all along. That would be the Rosenberg Foundation, which recently announced $1 million in grants for criminal justice causes in California and the implementation of Proposition 47.
Proposition 47 is the Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act, which voters passed in November and brings lots of changes to the California criminal justice system. Low-level offenses are the main target here, as the proposition downgrades six nonviolent felonies, including petty theft and drug possession, to misdemeanors. The state will save a bundle each year as it incarcerates fewer people—money that can then be used to fund drug treatment centers, mental health centers, drop-out prevention programs in schools, and victims’ services organizations.
Of course, the challenge with many new laws like this is making the vision behind them actually work. That's where the Rosenberg Foundation comes in. To help implement Proposition 47, the foundation awarded $800,000 to Californians for Safety and Justice and $100,000 to the National Council of La Raza. Rosenberg also committed $75,000 to the Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment to support public safety efforts and $60,000 to the National Employment Law Project to help former criminals find jobs.
“With Proposition 47, Californians overwhelmingly voted to roll back war on drugs sentencing, tearing down long-standing systemic barriers to opportunity and human rights that disproportionately impact communities of color and low income communities," said Rosenberg Foundation president, Tim Silard. “At the Rosenberg Foundation, we are seizing the moment by increasing our support for the courageous work of advocates and organizations fighting to ensure a safer, stronger, more prosperous, and more just California for all of us.”
So while funders in the cities that you keep hearing about on the news are scrambling to educate staff about criminal justice grantmaking and local civil rights nonprofits, the Rosenberg Foundation simply keeps doing what it has been doing all along.
Since the foundation was established in 1935, its priorities have evolved to support justice initiatives for farm workers, immigrant rights and integration, and justice and public safety. Grants are also occasionally made in the areas of accountable development, civil rights, and civic participation. To learn more about this funder’s criminal justice support in the Bay Area, check out IP’s profile of the Rosenberg Foundation and browse through the For Grant Seekers section of Rosenberg’s website.