About the Project

Who Pays? is a national community-driven research project. The research presented in this report was led by the collaborative efforts of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Forward Together, and Research Action Design with extensive research and participation by the local partners listed below. This research and its contributing organizations seek to address the lack of representation and the misrepresentation of low-income communities of color in the design of smart solutions that can break the cycles of violence and poverty exacerbated by the criminal justice system at the local, state, and national levels. This research also sought to uncover some of the ways individuals, families, and communities disparately experience these punitive practices based on race, class, gender, and sexuality.

Together, the research team surveyed 1,080 formerly incarcerated individuals and families with incarcerated loved ones and conducted thirty-four focus group sessions. The research documents participants’ experiences with the criminal justice system and solicits their thoughts about how that system needs to change to support their families. The resulting report is a culmination of these efforts and will contribute to family-centered policy solutions furthered by the participating organizations and our allies.


Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, ellabakercenter.org

Azadeh Zohrabi, Maria Dominguez, Darris Young, Zachary Norris, Patrisse Cullors, Jennifer Kim, and Zaineb Mohammed

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights advances racial and economic justice to ensure dignity and opportunity for low-income people and people of color. We are building a people-powered movement to end mass incarceration, criminaliza- tion, and state violence by moving funding away from prisons and punishment and toward family-driven solutions that improve public health, safety, and prosperity for all communities.

Forward Together, forwardtogether.org, strongfamiliesmovement.org

Alicia Walters and Eveline Shen

Forward Together is a multi-racial organization that works with community leaders and organizations to transform culture and policy to catalyze social change. Our vision is that every family have the rights, recognition, and resources it needs to thrive. Through movement building that centers women, trans, and gender non-con- forming people of color, Forward Together is working to change the way people think, feel, and act in support of the most marginalized families of all formations.

Research Action Design, rad.cat

Chris Schweidler, Pascal Emmer, and Sasha Costanza-Chock

Research Action Design (RAD) uses community-led research, transformative media organizing, technology development, and collaborative design to build the power of grassroots social movements. We are a worker-owned collective. Our projects are grounded in the needs and leadership of communities in the struggle for jus-tice and liberation.


BreakOUT!, youthbreakout.org

Wes Ware, Milan Nicole Sherry, Nate Faulk, and Shaena Johnson

(Louisiana) BreakOUT! seeks to end the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth to build a safer and more just New Orleans. We build on the rich cultural tradition of resistance in the South to build the power of LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 25 and directly impacted by the criminal justice system through youth organizing, healing justice, and leadership development programs.

Causa Justa :: Just Cause, cjjc.org

Rheema Calloway and Jaron Browne

(California) Causa Justa :: Just Cause builds grassroots power and leadership to create strong, equitable communities. Born through mergers between Black organizations and Latino organizations, we build bridges of solidarity between working class communities. Through rights-based services, policy campaignscivic engagement, and direct action, we improve conditions in our neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area and contribute to building the larger multi-racialmulti-generational movement needed for fundamental change.

Center for Nu Leadership, centerfornuleadership.org

Cory Greene, Divine Pryor, Kyung-Ji Kate Rhee, and Chino Hardin

(New York) The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions influences socio-eco- nomic, criminal, and juvenile justice policy by providing research, advocacy, and leadership training to formerly and currently incarcerated people, their families, communities, allies, and criminal justice professionals. Our purpose is to increase public health and safety, reshape the media portrayal and public opinion of people with criminal records, and promote active participation in criminal and social jus- tice policy decisions, discussions and deliberations by the people whose lives are most directly affected. The Center is dedicated to creating new paradigms of jus- tice directed towards reducing mass incarceration, mass unemployment, and mass disenfranchisement in communities of color. We promote the development and use of “community-specific” and culturally competent models for research inquiry and public policy formulation from the viewpoint of urban communities most affected.

DC Jobs With Justice, dcjwj.org

Nikki Lewis

(District of Columbia) DC Jobs with Justice is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights of the Metropolitan Washington DC Area workers and residents. DC JWJ is a long-term coalition of labor unions, community organizations, faith institutions, and student groups who work together because they share the common core value that people are more important than profits.

Direct Action for Rights & Equality (DARE), daretowin.org

John Prince, Sheila Wilhelm, Rachel Bishop, Laura Ucik, Madeline Ray, and Jean Carbone

(Rhode Island) DARE’s mission is to organize low-income families in communities of color for social, economic, and political justice.

Dignity and Power Now, dignityandpowernow.org

Carla Gonzales, Marc-Anthony Johnson, Jayda Rasberry, and Alex Alvarez

(California) Dignity and Power Now (DPN) is a grassroots organization based in Los Angeles that fights for the dignity and power of incarcerated people, their families, and communities. In doing so DPN wages a fight for all lives because the prison industrial complex forms an imaginative limit on everyone’s capacity to envision freedom and liberation. Dignity and Power Now has several projects, including an activist coalition, an artist collective, a zine, a research and reporting group, a leadership institute, and even a reentry program inside a state prison. Immediate campaign focuses include establishing comprehensive and effective civilian over- sight of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and allocating the money from the two billion dollar jail plan into mental health diversion programs and community health centers.

Essie Justice Group, essiejusticegroup.org

Gina Clayton, Lily Mandlin, and Shamika Wilson

(California) Essie Justice Group (“Essie”) was formed to harness the collective pow- er of women with incarcerated loved ones to build a women-led movement to end mass incarceration and empower women. By infusing the authentic voices of women impacted by incarceration into advocacy, Essie’s focus is to lift up mean- ingful, lasting policy alternatives to mass incarceration, expose patriarchy in the criminal justice system, and mitigate the impact on and bring about the dignified treatment of women and their families.

Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, fflic.org

Ernest Johnson, Gina Womack, Lillian Tillman, and Troy Robertson

(Louisiana) Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) is a statewide membership-based organization dedicated to creating a better life for all of Louisiana’s youth, especially those who are involved or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system, and we seek to use education, direct action organizing, and peer advocacy to build strong, powerful families and communities and to fight for justice for our children and ourselves.

Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, ffsj.org

Andrew Lucero, Elena Salazar, Sammy Nunez, Alejandra Gutierrez, Shantesha Fluker, Dashawn Rabon, Eduardo Crabbe, and Chris De Leone

(California) Fathers & Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ) is a progressive, solutions-ori- entated organization that works to address the varying needs of men, women, youth, their families, and the community. By providing socially relevant and cul- turally relevant services, FFSJ develops local leadership while unifying the efforts of existing groups. FFSJ addresses critical problems such as institutional ineq- uity, fatherless homes, widespread poverty, employment disparities, inadequate access to public health services, community reentry, and youth-on-youth violence.

The New Florida Majority, newfloridamajority.org

Devin D. Coleman

(Florida) The New Florida Majority is an independent organization working to increase the voting and political power of marginalized and excluded constituen- cies toward an inclusive, equitable, and just Florida. We believe in a participatory democracy where people can be their whole selves. We train grassroots citizens to be leaders, mobilize communities to vote, educate the public to share our val- ues, and inspire Floridians to take action toward their dreams. We organize people, ideas, and resources to build a powerful new vision for Florida’s new majority. A cornerstone of our beliefs is defending and expanding the voting rights of all cit- izens, including those who are new to the country, raising children on their own, struggling to make a living, or returning from incarceration. We believe that a strong democracy for all makes a better Florida for everyone.

The Ohio Organizing Collaborative, ohorganizing.org

DaMareo Cooper, Akim Lattermore, Minister Raymond Greene, Wayne Huggins, and Yacove Delany

(Ohio) Ohio Organizing Collaborative is an innovative and experimental statewide organization that unites community organizing groups, labor unions, faith orga- nizations, and policy institutes across the state. We work to improve the lives of regular Ohioans by fighting for one good job for every citizen. We use community organizing and civic engagement to build power. We focus on on fighting against barriers to employment and destroying the Prison Industrial Complex.

Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, miccd.org

Michelle Weemhoff, Kristen Staley, and Jason Smith

(Michigan) The Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency (MCCD) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness of policies and systems that address the prevention and reduction of youth and adult crime. Founded in 1956, MCCD believes everyone is entitled to equal access and treatment within justice and human service systems and the public must be an informed and active par- ticipant in developing crime prevention and reduction policies. Through research, collaboration, and advocacy-oriented strategies we work to shape public poli- cy, educate justice system stakeholders, and support the safety of all Michigan communities.

Partnership for Safety and Justice, safetyandjustice.org

Shannon Wight

(Oregon) Partnership of Safety and Justice (PSJ) is a statewide, non-profit organi- zation that has worked to reform public safety and criminal justice policy in Oregon for more than 15 years. We advocate for public safety and criminal justice policies that address the needs of all people affected by crime and society’s response to crime. We believe that effective policy should include an appropriate level of accountability from those who commit crimes, resources to ensure that crime sur- vivors get the services they need, and a commitment to proven strategies that prevent crime and provide opportunities for both victims and people who commit crimes to rebuild their lives.

Prison and Family Justice Project, pfjp

Amanda Alexander

(Michigan) The Prison & Family Justice Project serves families divided by incarcer- ation and the foster care system through a combination of direct representation, know-your-rights education, targeted litigation, and advocacy. The Project works with people in prison and their families to reduce the impact of incarceration and to promote family reunification and successful reentry.

The Reentry Network for Returning Citizens, thereentrynetworkdc.wordpress.com

Courtney Stewart and Sherman Justice

(District of Columbia) The Reentry Network for Returning Citizens works to con- nect previously incarcerated individuals to jobs, housing, training, mental health, substance abuse treatment, and recovery programs upon their return to the com- munity. Our primary focus is to establish relationships, help rebuild our community, reconnect with families, and educate the public to improve the quality of life for reentrants.

Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD,Inc.), rihd.org

Lillie Branch-Kennedy

(Virginia) Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD, Inc.) is an all-volunteer, non-partisan, statewide, membership organization working to end the trend of Mass Incarceration in Virginia. We support self-help and prison-based rehabilitation programs proven to end road-blocks for returning citizens. Recipient of the 2011 “Lights on After-school” Proclamation(s) from Richmond City Mayor and Richmond City Council for RIHD’s Youth Initiative, preventing and deterring youth related crime.

Statewide Poverty Action Network (SPAN), povertyaction.org

Rolando Avila, Marcy Bowers, Ardell Shaw, and Lara Sim

(Washington) Poverty Action builds grassroots power to end the root causes of poverty and create opportunities for everyone to prosper. Our successes directly result from our engagement of people with low incomes and people of color in a full spectrum of civic engagement activities, including: defining our legislative and electoral priorities; playing a key role in advocacy campaigns; and speaking up to change the dominant narrative around poverty. Because poverty is rooted in the intersections of multiple oppressions, we work to change institutions and systems that create and perpetuate poverty for the members of our communities.

Sunfl ower Community Action, sunfloweract.org

Durell Gilmore

(Kansas) Our mission is to change lives by developing grassroots leaders to identify problems and seek lasting solutions. Sunflower members build power by working together for the common good.

Voice of the Ex-Off ender (VOTE), vote-nola.org

Gahiji Barrow and Norris Henderson

(Louisiana) V.O.T.E., Voice of the Ex-Offender, is a grassroots, membership-based organization founded and run by Formerly Incarcerated Persons in partnership with allies dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement of and discrimination against formerly incarcerated people. We believe that formerly incarcerated people, their loved ones, allies, and communities can use their experiences and expertise to improve public safety in New Orleans. Through civic engagement and education about how to maneuver the legal system and draft and advocate for policy and legislation as well as other job and technical skills, VOTE mobilizes grassroots leaders to transform our city’s criminal justice system.

Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ), center4racialjustice.org

Sade Richmond and DeAngelo Bester

(Illinois) Our mission is to eliminate the barriers to sustainable and living wage employment for Black workers, strengthen economic security for Black families, and advance a progressive pro-worker agenda that will lead to inclusion and prosperity for all marginalized workers.


UCLA Labor Center, labor.ucla.edu

Lucero Herrera, Saba Waheed, and Natalia Garcia

The UCLA Labor Center creates innovative programs that offer a range of educa- tional, research, and public service activities within the university and in the broader community, especially among low-wage and immigrant workers. The Labor Center is a vital resource for research, education, and policy development that helps cre- ate jobs that are good for workers and their communities. It also improves the quality of existing jobs in the low-wage economy, and strengthens the process of immigrant integration, especially among students and youth.

Human Impact Partners, humanimpact.org

Jonathan Heller and Sara Satinsky

Human Impact Partners’ mission is to transform the policies and places people need to live healthy lives by increasing the consideration of health and equity in decision making. Through research, advocacy, and capacity building, we help organizations and public agencies who work with low-income communities and communities of color to challenge the inequities that harm the health of our communities.

Participatory Budgeting Project, participatorybudgeting.org/

Ginny Browne and Aseem Mulji

The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) is a non-profit organization that empow- ers people to decide together how to spend public money, primarily in the US and Canada. We create and support participatory budgeting processes that deepen democracy, build stronger communities, and make public budgets more equitable and effective.