A $5.5 million “reintegration portfolio” will finance programs ensuring people with criminal records aren’t locked out of any national economic recovery, Arnold Ventures announced Wednesday.
The Texas-based foundation described the portfolio as a group of investments aimed at funding efforts to reduce the “barriers to success” for the nearly one in three people who have a criminal record, making it harder for them to find and keep a job, secure housing, support their families, and fully participate in civic life.
“Criminal convictions are too often a life sentence to poverty,” Amy Solomon, Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures, said in a letter announcing the program.
The foundation said its investment plan was launched in response to the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center’s recently released report on employment-related collateral consequences imposed by state and federal law, which found that 50 percent of all employment-related barriers arise from felony conviction, and nearly 25 percent are imposed for any crime at all, whether a felony or misdemeanor.
Arnold Ventures said it was also working with the Clean Slate Initiative, which aims to expand eligibility for record clearing and automate the expungement process. The Collateral Consequences Resource Center, an Arnold Ventures grantee, has documented significant momentum on this issue: in 2020, some 32 states enacted 106 bills to restore rights and opportunities to people with a record.
In addition, to promote economic opportunity for justice-impacted people, Arnold Ventures said it was providing funding to organizations like Root and Rebound, which is working to enforce and expand fair chance occupational licensing and hiring protections in states, complementing Institute for Justice’s efforts to build on the successful challenges of “good moral character” clauses in occupational licensing laws, and supporting the Education Trust to highlight the most promising policies that provide access to higher education for justice-impacted students and build a community of practice of formerly incarcerated students through a fellows program.
Supported by Arnold Ventures, the CSG Justice Center has also developed customized state playbooks to help map out actions policymakers can take to break down these barriers to opportunity, the first twenty of which were released Wednesday.
Editors Note: Arnold Ventures is a supporter of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice, publisher of The Crime Report.