Today there are approximately 2.3 million men, women and youth incarcerated in the United States. Of this total, 37 percent are Black men. While the US comprises only 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. Our country’s systems of confinement are fragmented, and the objective reasons for confinement are varied and complex. The impact of incarceration goes far beyond the individual prisoner and perpetuates a generational poverty and at risk conditions. The system is in need of dramatic reform.
Prison reform is defined as: “the attempt to improve conditions inside prisons, improve the effectiveness of a penal system, or implement alternatives to incarceration. It also focuses on ensuring the reinstatement of those whose lives are impacted by crimes”.
We at the Darwin Project believe that the most important aspect of prison reform where we can have an impact is support of projects which focus on local at-risk youth and their families and help eliminate the subjective root causes of incarceration and of re-entry into the prison system.
Learning by Giving/Wellesley College/Darwin Project Team Project
In order to identify which organizations we would donate to in support of prison reform, we teamed with the Learning by Giving course as Wellesley College, led by Professors Anne Brubaker and Lee Cuba. The course focuses on educating students around criminal justice reform. In the semester ending December 2019, students in the class came together to conduct research on effective programs. They recommended to us, and we agreed, that we would provide grants to the following two Boston area nonprofit organizations that are making a strong local impact, ROCA and Inner City Weightlifting.
Roca’s mission is to disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty by helping young people transform their lives. Their interventional model is designed to help high-risk young men leave streets and gangs and go to work. Through relentless outreach, tailored programming and collaboration with community partners, Roca helps young men transform their lives. They build meaningful relationships with young people and establish the foundation for behavioral change.
InnerCity Weightlifting’s mission is to reduce community violence by connecting victims of trauma and racial segregation to new opportunities, including meaningful career tracks in and beyond personal training. ICW originated in 1988 in Boston as a gym with the simple goal of keeping “at-risk” youth off the streets. But it has since evolved into a community support network as well as a source of education, job-training, and employment in personal training for young people who have been imprisoned.