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Buried Alive Project

Criminal Justice Reform

Chrest Foundation’s commitment to criminal justice reform is rooted in the belief in the importance of civil and political rights for all. Many of the rights enumerated in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights were designed to ensure that people accused of crimes would have a fair opportunity to respond to charges brought against them, and the government had the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Foundation believes a sound and effective criminal justice system is essential to securing public safety, as well as ensuring people accused of crimes can confidently rely on receiving fair, equal, and compassionate treatment under the law.

As it currently stands, the United States criminal justice system suffers from many flaws, many of which arise from existing laws and policy, which have resulted in the United States being the world leader in incarceration. This reality produces far-reaching impacts on countless human lives, families, and communities, only serving to further exacerbate and entrench social and economic inequalities. Moreover, along with undermining individual liberties, the current system also absorbs significant fiscal resources, which could more effectively be applied in advancing justice, public safety, or other civic priorities.

Transforming the criminal justice system entails taking a systemic and human-centered approach that acknowledges the legal, historical, social, and individual dimensions of this issue. We seek to support efforts to reform the criminal justice system by supporting the development and adoption of evidence-based policies that are driven by robust data and amplified by advocacy efforts. We are particularly interested in generating and disseminating best practices that can be applied and replicated throughout the country.

  • Current goals driving the Foundation’s investments:
  • Reduce the overall population of incarcerated people/ending mass incarceration
  • Reduce criminalization, which includes reducing the number of crimes treated as felonies or groups (such as young adults) eligible for felony convictions
  • Reduce the footprint of the criminal justice system (shrinking the parole and probation systems/reducing the burden of those systems on the people impacted)
  • Increase the number of formerly incarcerated people who successfully transition back into their communities

  • Examples of the types of nonprofit organizations/programs in which the Foundation plans to invest:
  • Policy-shaping activities (such as research, conferences) that seek to affect systemic change or transform the criminal justice system
  • Advocacy, communications, or public awareness efforts to create greater awareness of the problems, positively impact the national discourse, and encourage public opinion to be supportive of policy changes
  • Programs that have a special emphasis on the unique needs and challenges of justice-involved women and girls
  • Diversion or alternative-to-incarceration programs that help people avoid incarceration and access needed services while remaining in their communities
  • Re-entry programs that provide strategic support and opportunities for advancement for individuals exiting the criminal justice system

The Foundation’s program on criminal justice reform is focused on efforts in Texas, but the Foundation is also open to working in other areas in the United States, as well as on endeavors with a nation-wide focus.

Please refer to the Environment and Culture, Communications, and Civic Life pages for more information on Chrest Foundation's other program areas.

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