Recently we talked with Bob Friedman about the early days of the asset building movement and how this work drew in funders. Here, in our second article based on that conversation, we hear his thoughts on where the movement is today and where it may be going.
From the Whitehouse Press office:
Washington, DC – Today President Obama and Vice President Biden convened a meeting at the White House to discuss criminal justice reform efforts with key members of Congress, including U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Whitehouse, a lead sponsor of the CORRECTIONS Act along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), released the statement below regarding the meeting:
“Both Republican and Democratic leaders agree we can pass meaningful criminal justice reform measures this year, and I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss how to best move forward. Senator Cornyn and I have already built a strong bipartisan consensus around our legislation to better prepare inmates for re-entering society and reduce the risk that they’ll commit future crimes, and I strongly support the effort led by other Senators to reform our sentencing laws. I’m hopeful that we will be able to achieve both prison and sentencing reform this year, and I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for their leadership on this important issue.”
According to the White House, other Senators attending today’s meeting included Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Mike Lee (R-UT).
The CORRECTIONS Act would improve public safety and save taxpayer money by requiring prisoners to participate in recidivism reduction programs and allowing certain eligible prisoners to earn up to 25 percent of their sentence in prerelease custody for successful completion of these programs. The programs, which can include things like vocational training and substance abuse treatment, have been proven to help former prisoners successfully re-acclimate to society upon release and to reduce the risk that they will commit future crimes.
Money for financial education is flowing pretty steadily these days from banks and other financial services corporate foundations. Now PwC, one of the Big Four auditors and the world’s second largest professional services network, is coming through with grants big and small to improve financial education and skills development for children.
Collaboratives of funders appear to be a growing phenomenon. For housing nonprofits and funders, one collaborative that is particularly important to know about is Funders Together to End Homelessness.
We’ll say it again: We love watching the Laura and John Arnold Foundation do business. Why? Because whatever you may think of LJAF’s ideas, this funder is always angling for the big play. And as for those ideas, they’re more eclectic than some might think. While the Arnolds are often cast as part of the conservative education cabal, and John Arnold has been gunning for public pensions reform, the foundation is also friendly to some progressive causes. A case in point: criminal justice reform, where the Arnolds have long pushed to create fairer, more effective policies—backing the Innocence Project, among other groups.
Lately, though, the foundation has been thinking even bigger about ways to move the needle in this area, and capitalize on how more Americans of all political stripes want to move away from a harsh war on crime that’s a legacy of the bygone crack era of the 1990s.
Criminal justice is one of those areas where funders have been banging their head against a wall for years—working against harsh practices that defy social science research, not to mention common sense.
Now, that blood-stained wall is finally starting to crack, as policy leaders and the public alike wake up to the negative consequences of embroiling so many Americans in the criminal justice system. With the wind finally blowing in the right direction, some foundations are stepping up efforts to make change.
The Obama administration has broken new ground in bringing together the power of philanthropy and government. Near the center of that effort is Michael Smith, the White House aide in charge of My Brother’s Keeper.