Share This Page

A more fair and equitable criminal justice system is vital to safe communities


By Nina Vinik, Director, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform Program

Last week, the Joyce Foundation announced our new program strategies for 2018-2020, including an expansion of our gun violence prevention efforts that incorporates work to improve the fairness of the criminal justice system. We’re excited to tell you more about our plans to build on the foundation’s 25-year history of supporting evidence-based policies to reduce gun deaths and injuries in the United States.      

More than 110,000 Americans are injured or killed by guns every year in community violence, domestic violence, mass shootings, suicide, and accidents -- an urgent reminder of the immediate and critical need to address this public health and safety crisis.    

The Joyce Foundation’s grant making has helped build the body of evidence finding that access to guns is a risk factor for gun violence; contributed to the development, implementation and evaluation of gun violence prevention policies; and made space for the voices of law enforcement and communities impacted by gun violence to have a role in developing solutions.   

We remain committed to addressing gun violence in all its forms, through research, education, and strategic partnerships to strengthen policies and systems to reduce easy access to firearms by those at risk of violence. The next phase of our efforts will build the research and policy case for a more fair and equitable criminal justice system as a necessary component of safe communities.     

In urban areas, the impact of gun violence is experienced most acutely by young people of color and their families and communities. Too often, mistrust between police and community members and an overreliance on incarceration and harsh sentences further weaken communities and erode public safety. A lack of trust undermines the ability of police and community members to work together to address gun violence, and leads some young people to choose to carry guns for self-protection. By supporting efforts to build trust and legitimacy, we hope to reduce negative encounters between police and young people, promote greater collaboration in violence prevention, reduce risky gun behaviors, and improve public safety.    

Moreover, research tells us that justice system involvement for young people is a risk factor for future violence. Improving policies and systems to limit justice system involvement for young people will reduce overincarceration, minimize the risk of future violence, improve outcomes for young offenders, and aid community safety efforts by focusing scarce law enforcement resources on violent offenders and those who supply them with guns.    

With the mission of building safe and just communities across the Great Lakes region, the Joyce Foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform Program will invest a projected $21.6 million over the next three years to support research, education, advocacy and engagement focused on three strategic initiatives:

  • Reducing gun violence in all its forms through state policy reform, research, education, and legal strategies,
  • Supporting 21st Century policing to build greater police-community trust and legitimacy,
  • Reducing the overreliance on incarceration of young people.

We will continue to partner with local community leaders, law enforcement officials, policy makers, advocates, researchers, policy experts and other funders to ensure that our public policies are grounded in the best available evidence and the experiences of those closest to the problem. 

The Joyce Foundation’s approach is deliberately intersectional, in the hopes of breaking down existing silos between gun violence prevention and criminal justice reform, engaging the communities that are most impacted by these challenges, and encouraging innovative solutions to promote safer communities and a more equitable justice system in our hometown of Chicago, in cities and states in the Great Lakes region, and across the country.