Pictured Here: Hudson Link graduates earn college degrees as they prepare to re-enter society after prison

Fight for equal justice for all

How can America have a criminal justice system that protects people and preserves public safety, respects human dignity, and provides second chances for those who earn them?

The Challenge By The Numbers

1-in-4 Americans have a criminal record.
2.2 million people are incarcerated in the U.S., four times more than in 1980.
67% of people released from prison will be arrested again within 3 years.

Justice starts with one person taking a stand. From the halls of Congress to inside prison walls, we're helping these social entrepreneurs grow their effectiveness and make a difference across the country.

Profile

People who make a mistake deserve a second chance. But today, overly harsh punishments stand in the way. Let's change that.

Nearly 90 percent of Americans agree: the punishment should fit the crime. While people are in prison, they should have access to rehabilitation services so they come out better than they went in.

The problem: the debate in Washington, D.C. had become so partisan that neither side wanted to let the other 'win.'

Van Jones—a leading reform advocate, who had served previously in the Obama Administration—wouldn't settle for that. We were frustrated, too. Since the early 2000s, dozens of states have enacted reforms that resulted in fewer prisoners and less crime, backed by lawmakers who span the political spectrum. But DC was deadlocked.

After years of focusing on our disagreements, we set aside our differences and focused on common ground. It turns out we have a lot in common on criminal justice issues.

We set out to unite a coalition of policymakers and organizations who also shared this common ground. It eventually came to include everyone from Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and the ACLU to Republican Sen. Mike Lee and the White House, to name just a few.

Video: See how Van Jones and Mark Holden went from opponents to allies to achieve historic criminal justice reform

“We started working together to get other people free. But the reality is, for those of us who worked on this, we got some freedom. We got free to see the country differently—and to do more good.”

– Van Jones, former Obama White House official

These partnerships really paid off in 2018, when Congress passed the First Step Act by historic margins—including 87-12 in an otherwise divided U.S. Senate. The once-in-a-generation reform reduced some excessive punishments and expanded access to rehabilitation programs that help people successfully transition back into their communities upon release.

It shows what's possible when people work through their differences and unite others to do the same. It’s why when it comes to removing public policy barriers, we unite with anybody to do right, regardless of political party.

Reforming public policy to provide second chances is a great start. How do we help people make the most of these chances—and stay out of prison for good?

Profile

Communities closest to those in need are often best able to help

Sean Pica was in prison when he realized one reason why so many return to prison after they're released: Many can't read or write, and lack other skills to qualify for a job. One day, a guard pulled Sean aside and asked if he could help these men—an experience that changed Sean's life.

When he got out of prison, Sean became the executive director of Hudson Link, a community nonprofit that helps people in prison earn college-accredited degrees and land a job after they’re released.

The results speak for themselves: Less than two percent of Hudson Link graduates return to prison—compared to 67 percent nationally. Sean has already expanded the program to five prisons. Now, in partnership with the Stand Together community, he's expanding to even more.

Sean shows how national problems are often best addressed at the local level—and in many cases, by people who’ve experienced them firsthand. It’s why the Stand Together community has invested $100 million over the last three and a half years in support of 141 local nonprofits that address the root causes of poverty, including those resulting from our criminal justice system.

Video: Hudson Link enables second chances through education while people serve time in prison

“Fast forward 19 years, we have 588 students in five sites. It was all born and came right out of (one prison).”

– Sean Pica, founder of Hudson Link

Even if people get a second chance and are qualified for a job, the question remains: who’s going to hire them?

Profile

Business leaders are answering the call

Helping businesses reform their hiring practices is one of Johnny Taylor's top priorities. He leads the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world's largest human resources organization. They found businesses face so many barriers to hiring people with criminal records that many simply can't, while the stigma attached to people who have been in prison makes the challenge worse.

In January 2019, Charles Koch challenged business leaders to rethink their approach on hiring these men and women. We also partnered with Johnny Taylor and SHRM to launch the Getting Talent Back to Work pledge that asks business leaders to provide opportunities to qualified people.

The result? Within three months, more than 1,400 employers and individuals had signed on. Now, the Stand Together community is working with SHRM to equip more companies with the tools and resources they need to provide greater opportunities and open more doors to people who want to turn their lives around.

Video: Charles Koch shares how businesses can help create second chances that benefit everyone

Policymakers. Communities. Businesses. They're all playing a role. How can research accelerate their progress?

Profile

Scholars have united to study what works—and what doesn't

Arizona State University Professor Erik Luna saw a problem: while some states had led a renaissance of criminal justice reform over the past decade, without a go-to source of best practices, other states had fallen further behind.

Erik had an idea: unite the top criminal justice scholars from across the country to produce a single, comprehensive source that studies every major aspect of our criminal justice system.

The Charles Koch Foundation—part of the Stand Together community—helped Erik bring his idea to life by supporting the launch of the Academy for Justice. It brought together more than 120 scholars from different perspectives to be the authoritative source for criminal justice issues. Now, their work serves as a resource for everyone from policymakers to nonprofit leaders to law enforcement officers and many others.

The only way to address our country's biggest challenges is by learning from our past and present. That's why the Stand Together community supports more than 1,000 professors at over 350 universities, who are expanding our country's understanding of complex problems.

Video: Erik Luna is uniting scholars to discover smart-on-crime solutions

“The Academy for Justice comes at the perfect time. It's really helped to change the debate.”

– Professor Brandon L. Garrett, Duke University School of Law

You can help meet the challenge

The Stand Together community is uniting social entrepreneurs to reform the criminal justice system. Policy advocates are working for more second chances. Local groups and businesses are helping people re-enter their communities. Scholars are providing research that can accelerate progress across the board. These bottom-up efforts started with one person, then engaged hundreds, and now along with many partners, they are poised to make a difference on a national scale.

By standing together and approaching the challenge from different angles, we can help ensure justice for all so that every person can rise.

Today’s criminal justice system still has a long way to go. What role can you play in driving more progress? Can Stand Together help you greater your good?SM Find out how we can help you launch or grow your own organization or support the most effective groups in the country.

Greater your good.

If you're a social entrepreneur looking to start a new venture or want to increase your impact and effectiveness, find out how we can help connect you with the necessary support and resources.

Get Support

There are many ways you can make a difference on the issues you care about most. Partner with the Stand Together community to help supercharge some of the most effective organizations in the country.

Partner Up