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

The application deadline for the FreeHer Circle Fund has passed. Decisions will be announced in May 2021

The FreeHer Fund was established by CJI in 2020 in consultation with The National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. The FreeHer 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-nonconforming 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 FreeHer 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

Deadline to apply: Tuesday, February 9, 2021. Watch RFP Review Webinar here.


Rapid Response Fund

2020 will likely be remembered in US history for two defining events: The spread of the Covid-19 virus, and, no less consequential to life and death in our communities, the national presidential and “down ballot” elections. In this perilous time, our movement to transform the criminal justice system must be on high alert to the dangers and opportunities posed by these monumental concerns.

CJI’s SOS Rapid Response Fund has always provided flexible and immediate funding to organizations responding to changing political landscapes and working to build collective power at critical junctures. In the coming months, SOS will continue to respond to crisis and opportunities across the spectrum of our work, giving priority to the following categories:


1) Organizing that responds to opportunities or dangers affecting the health, safety, or human rights of incarcerated and directly impacted people based on Covid-19 policies or practices.

Examples may include, but are not limited to::

· Campaigns to secure the release of incarcerated people to protect health and safety during COVID-19. This may include calls to reduce risk by reducing the overall prison population, such as campaigns to release people detained for technical parole violations, and/or people serving sentences of one year or less. It may also include campaigns to secure the release of people who are vulnerable to the virus such as people over 50 and people with underlying health conditions.


· Mobilizing to make prison and jail communication free of charge in response to COVID-related bans to in-person visits. Such campaigns may support policy change and educate the public about the price of calling prisons in a time when telephone communication is the only way families can speak with incarcerated loved ones.


· Campaigns that demand emergency wages for incarcerated people who are making hand sanitizer, masks, and other COVID-related materials.


2) Organizing to support the rights of formerly incarcerated and directly impacted people to effectively participate in the electoral process.

Examples may include, but are not limited to:

· Mobilizing community action to re-enfranchise incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people by introducing or supporting legislation that restores their voting rights and/or reduces obstacles to the restoration of their voting rights, such as unpaid court fines and fees.


· Organizing to include the rights of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in voting rights campaigns that have gained momentum due to COVID 19. This may include campaigns to increase access to voter registration, expand early voting, and expand voting by mail, all of which disproportionately affect incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people who are often left out of campaign strategies and materials.


· Community education campaigns that explain the rights of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and combat widespread misinformation about their eligibility to vote


The application deadline for the Leadership Circle Fund has passed. Decisions will be announced in October 2020


The CJI Leadership Circle is an innovative grant-making panel comprised of donors, donor-activists, and community organizers, some of whom have experienced incarceration. We share authority and a passion for supporting meaningful, transformative, and systemic change of the criminal justice system. Understanding the limited funding for progressive criminal justice organizing, this Circle was launched  20 years ago as a means of creating a new source of support for this critical work. We seek to support work that will end the criminal justice system as we know it. 


Each year we raise the grant funds, convene for political education, and determine our grantmaking and RFP focus. The Circle reconvenes to evaluate proposals and make grant decisions. Given this process, there is currently no recurring annual deadline or guarantee of multi-year funding for CJI applicants. 


Eligible organizations will receive a link to the full online application. Proposal deadline: July 10th, 2020 at 11:59 PM PST. 




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.