Ranked Nonprofits: National Criminal Justice 2011

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"The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population. But it has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners." NY Times
"The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population. But it has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners." NY Times

The Cause: Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. Contrary to many people’s assumption, most of the people in prison have not committed serious crimes and the increase in incarceration rates are not a result of an increase in crime rates. Although many people believe that representing clients and fighting criminal justice falls on the public defenders office, nonprofit organizations play a vital role in the field of criminal justice because they are independent from the government compared to public defenders offices.

The Scope: Criminal justice experts were asked to recommend nonprofits that work on solving issues across the entire time spectrum: before conviction, serving time, and re-entry. They were asked to consider different types of nonprofits, including legal defense organizations, service providers, research groups, advocacy groups, community organizing groups, membership groups, organizations that provide education and public outreach, technical assistance providers, and communications strategy organizations. Read more about the scope of the research here: http://www.myphilanthropedia.org/blog/?p=1214.


126 National Criminal Justice experts recommended the following 16 outstanding nonprofits.
Meet the experts and read more about this research.


Top Nonprofit Mission
1 Medal-small-2011 The Innocence Project
The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 273 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release. The Innocence Project’s full-time staff attorneys and Cardozo clinic students provide direct representation or critical assistance in most of these cases. The Innocence Project’s groundbreaking use of DNA technology to free innocent people has provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Now an independent nonprofit organization closely affiliated with Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the Innocence Project’s mission is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.
2 Medal-small-2011 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.
3 Medal-small-2011 The Sentencing Project
The Sentencing Project is a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration. The Sentencing Project was founded in 1986 to provide defense lawyers with sentencing advocacy training and to reduce the reliance on incarceration. Since that time, The Sentencing Project has become a leader in the effort to bring national attention to disturbing trends and inequities in the criminal justice system with a successful formula that includes the publication of groundbreaking research, aggressive media campaigns and strategic advocacy for policy reform. The Sentencing Project is dedicated to changing the way Americans think about crime and punishment.
4 Medal-small-2011 Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice combines expertise in research, demonstration projects, and technical assistance to help leaders in government and civil society improve the systems people rely on for justice and safety.
5 Medal-small-2011 NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is America's premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 70 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.
6 Medal-small-2011 Southern Center for Human Rights
The Southern Center for Human Rights provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks through litigation and advocacy to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States.
7 Medal-small-2011 Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama
A nonprofit organization providing legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners denied fair and just treatment in the legal system.
8 Medal-small-2011 Pew Charitable Trusts
The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public, and stimulate civic life.
9 Medal-small-2011 Justice Policy Institute
Our mission is to reduce the use of incarceration and the justice system and promote policies that improve the well-being of all people and communities.
10 Medal-small-2011 Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
Our mission is to advance those policies and attitudes that best reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and to promote the sovereignty of individuals over their minds and bodies.
11 Medal-small-2011 Campaign for Youth Justice
The mission of the Campaign for Youth Justice is to end the practice of prosecuting, sentencing and incarcerating youth (under 18) in the adult criminal justice system. CFYJ also seeks to promote research-based, developmentally-appropriate rehabilitative programs and services for youth as an alternative to the adult criminal justice system.
12 Medal-small-2011 Death Penalty Information Center
The Death Penalty Information Center is a non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. The Center was founded in 1990 and prepares in-depth reports, issues press releases, conducts briefings for journalists, and serves as a resource to those working on this issue. The Center is widely quoted and consulted by all those concerned with the death penalty.
13 Medal-small-2011 Justice Center, The Council of State Governments
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. Staff provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies—informed by available evidence—to increase public safety and strengthen communities. The Justice Center evolved from the Council of State Governments’ Eastern Regional Conference justice program to a national center in 2006. The center serves all states to promote effective data-driven practices—particularly in areas in which the criminal justice system intersects with other disciplines, such as public health—to provide practical solutions to public safety and cross-systems problems. The Justice Center builds on the solid foundation of work that staff have conducted on the responses to justice-involved people with mental illnesses, crime victims, as well as such issues as prisoner reentry and justice reinvestment—a data-driven approach to reduce corrections spending and reinvest savings in strategies that can decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods. The Justice Center’s board of directors includes state legislative leaders, judges, corrections administrators, juvenile justice agency directors, and law enforcement professionals; together, they represent a cross-section of the senior-level state officials who shape criminal justice policy.
14 Medal-small-2011 Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Our mission is to advocate for the civil rights and empowerment of incarcerated parents, children, family members and people at risk for incarceration through responding to requests for information, trainings, technical assistance, litigation, community activism and the development of more advocates. Our focus is on women prisoners and their families, and we emphasize that issues of race are central to any discussion of incarceration.
15 Medal-small-2011 W Haywood Burns Institute
To protect and improve the lives of youth of color, poor youth and the well-being of their communities by reducing the adverse impacts of public and private youth-serving systems to ensure fairness and equity throughout the juvenile justice system.
16 Medal-small-2011 The Constitution Project (TCP)
The Constitution Project (TCP) brings together unlikely allies—experts and practitioners from across the political spectrum—in order to promote and safeguard America’s founding charter.  TCP is working to reform the nation’s broken criminal justice system and to strengthen the rule of law through scholarship, consensus policy reforms, advocacy, and public education. 


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Through independent research, Philanthropedia has leveraged the wisdom of 3121 experts to provide reviews on 751 top nonprofits across 46 causes.