Rapid Response Fund

The 2022 SOS Fund application is open until 12/2/2022.

Please note that applications are considered on a rolling-basis until all funding has been granted, at which point the cycle will close even if that date precedes the application deadline.



The Strategic Opportunities Support Rapid Response Fund (SOS Fund) is a funding mechanism that issues micro-grants (up to $5,000) to eligible organizations addressing immediate, emergency needs and critically urgent strategic organizing opportunities in their communities. Qualifying organizations are led by and serve formerly incarcerated people and the families of those directly impacted and possess organizational budgets under $750,000.

Please note that applications for the SOS Fund are accepted on a rolling basis. However, the SOS Fund may close prior to its official deadline in the event that funds for the year have been exhausted. Also, receiving a grant from the SOS fund does not disqualify you from applying for support from other CJI funds.

In the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began in full force, it has become clearer than ever that we need to foster and share community power to help one other make it over these troubled waters. Who sits in the White House has changed, but the challenges facing our movement persist. The struggle against voter suppression continues, the calls for justice voiced in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police have largely gone unheeded, and too many people sitting behind bars are effectively being sentenced to death by coronavirus due to the lack of humane health and safety policies.


We carry forward the lessons we learned in 2021 as we gather strength and prepare ourselves for the work still to come. The Circle for Justice Innovations stands alongside our community and is ready to lend our support however we can. With a Circle comprised of progressive-minded donors and systems-impacted activists, we are ready to help you make the change you need to see in the world. Read on for more information about the different areas of work that the SOS Fund supports.


The Strategic Opportunities Support (SOS) Rapid Response Fund supports:

  • Responses to cases of state violence (police brutality or violence from other agents of law enforcement, ICE raids, etc.)

  • Creation of community-based initiatives for alternatives to policing and incarceration

  • Organizing against incidents of white supremacist/fascist aggression

  • Work to halt policies that expand the criminalization and/or incarceration of marginalized groups, as well as those that aim to limit constitutionally protected activities

  • Work to promote policies that protect, restore or expand protections for and rights of formerly incarcerated peoples, especially voting rights

  • Responses to disasters that impact an organization’s ability to carry out their criminal justice work and/or that pose a direct threat to incarcerated people

  • Advocacy and organizing for an appropriate and just response to COVID-19 such as compassionate release (funding is not offered for PPE supplies)

  • Inclusion and/or participation of underrepresented communities or formerly incarcerated people and directly impacted families in movement and policy convenings

  • Healing justice work


We do not fund projects of the kind listed below:

  • Annual fundraising drives, galas, or other development activities

  • Projects undertaken by individuals

  • Capital costs, including real estate purchases or renovations

  • Organizations operating in isolation and not working in community with others

  • Healing work that is not connected to organizing or the movement

  • Direct services, such as housing, provision of clothes, shelter, food, etc., or standalone legal services divorced from movement work

Our simple application requires a few brief answers regarding the circumstances of the need, verification of 501(c)(3) nonprofit status or fiscal sponsorship, and your project and organizational budgets. If you are a current CJI grantee, only a project budget and narrative are required.


Compelling applications will:

  • Demonstrate movement-building or collaborative organizing;

  • Show strategic analysis of the emergency or opportunity;

  • Thoughtfully explain the purpose of the grant request; and

  • Clearly articulate how grant funding will be used.

NOTE: If you experience any technical difficulties, please contact You may also contact a CJI staff person by email at or by phone at 646-849-9172.


Supporting Organizations Led by Women, Girls, Transwomen, Transgirls, and Gender-nonconforming People 

The Until She's Free RFP will be released in May 2022.

The Until She's Free Fund (Formerly FreeHer Fund) was established by CJI in 2020 in consultation with The National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. The Until She's Free Circle works to support grassroots organizing based in an awareness of the current political environment’s hostility toward the rights of women and girls. Organizations must be led by women, girls, transwomen, transgirls, and gender-expansive people who are directly impacted by the criminal legal system, and who work to restore and/or expand the rights of those who identify as women and are currently or formerly incarcerated.


CJI Circle giving is explicitly inspired by and designed to reflect a principle of philanthropy that values the role of those most affected by injustice as participants in generating the solutions to the issues they face. The FreeHer Circle is comprised of donors, donor-activists and criminal justice reform movement leaders who identify as women and are committed to ensuring a meaningful transformation of the U.S. criminal legal system. Most Circle members are themselves directly impacted (e.g., unjust or wrongful convictions, family members imprisoned).

The Until She's Free Circle Fund aims to award at least $500,000 in grants to grassroots organizations located nationwide that focus their work on one or more of the following five areas:


  • Bail Moratorium, Sentencing Reform, and Transformation of Supervision Systems

  • Conditions of Confinement 

  • Restoration of Rights and Reunification 

  • Economic Justice and Autonomy  

  • Reproductive Justice

Watch RFP Review Webinar here.


The application deadline for the Leadership Circle Fund is has passed. Decisions will be announced in October 2021.


CJI’s Leadership Circle is seeking to fund organizations engaged in the movement to identify, define, and create solutions to systems of oppression and the current criminal legal system. We fund alternatives outside of the current legal and cultural systems of oppression, prioritizing those that empower communities to implement their own alternatives and create place-based solutions. We also prioritize groups enhancing the safety of communities that are victims of state-sponsored violence (both overt and insidious), those affected by the criminalization of protests, and those working toward community healing. We will support the crucial work of building infrastructure that replaces the current system, which is rooted in racism and inequity.

1. Applicants must first fill out an ELIGIBILITY QUIZ. The Eligibility Quiz can be found here.
2. Eligible organizations will then be sent a link to the full application on Submittable.
3. Complete the full application on Submittable by the deadline of July 20th 11:59 PM PDT.

Eligible organizations will receive a link to the full online application. Proposal deadline: July 20th, 2021 at 11:59 PM PDT. 


The application deadline for the STB Fund has passed. 

The Circle for Justice Innovations (CJI) and Open Society Foundations are excited to fund community-based options that will reduce incarceration as a response to criminalized behaviors including drug use and related activities, sex work, and other survival behaviors. This funding collaboration is intended to improve the capacity of community-based organizations to deliver resources, provide harm-reduction services, and address policy change that will limit police interactions around mental health, homelessness, and consenting adult behavior. We support harm reduction practices that are non-coercive and entirely outside of the criminal legal system, as opposed to those that occur as a result of an arrest or other system contact. Our goal is to broaden community education and encourage activism to challenge the still-powerful War on Drugs and its hyper-criminalization and incarceration of communities of color and impoverished communities.    

10-15 one-time grants between $15,000 and $25,000 will be awarded through a competitive application process. Ongoing funding is not guaranteed.

CJI will manage the application process. Grant selection will occur through consensus by CJI’s Starving the Beast Circle of activists, donors and survivors of the War on Drugs. Grant applications must be submitted online to apply for these competitive grant funds. Please read all instructions carefully.

Other Non-CJI Rapid Response Grant Opportunities

The following resources provide information about additional rapid response funds across the United States. Few have criteria, and most do not. A few are focused on immigrant rights while most are general. The rapid response funds listed are not related to the funds of the Circle for Justice Innovations and are meant to provide additional funding opportunities to you, irrespective of your application to the SOS Rapid Response Fund.