Public Welfare Foundation Grant

Public Welfare Foundation

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Deadline: Rolling

Grant amount: Up to US $400,000

Fields of work: Juvenile Justice Criminal Justice System Reform Racial / Ethnic Justice & Rights

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: General Operating Expense, Project / Program

Location of project: United States

Location of residency: United States

990 Snapshot



Advancing a New Vision of Justice

For over seventy years, Public Welfare Foundation has supported efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. Today, our efforts focus on catalyzing a transformative approach to justice that is community-led, restorative, and racially just through investments in criminal justice and youth justice reforms.

Issue Areas: Adult Criminal Justice

Reforms at the edges are no longer enough. PWF is committed to funding new alternatives to the justice system in our targeted jurisdictions.

The scale and severity of America’s criminal justice system is a unique problem unmatched by any other developed nation. This crisis disproportionately impacts people of color, and costs the nation $80 billion annually in law enforcement spending and between $55 and $60 billion in lost annual Gross Domestic Product.

Our country’s over-reliance on mass incarceration is a failed experiment that adversely impacts communities and families, and has no positive effect on public safety. It’s a problem that can, and must, urgently be addressed with effective community alternatives. Community-based programs encourage innovative solutions that meet local priorities, foster collective action, and support new leaders who can spearhead efforts to make their own neighborhoods safer and stronger.

It is time to boldly reimagine our nation’s justice system.

Public Welfare Foundation makes grants primarily to groups that are working in its targeted jurisdictions to:

  • Advance the redirection and prioritization of state and local resources toward targeted investments that support system-involved individuals in their communities, through research and strategic thought leadership.
  • Reduce state incarceration levels and racial disparities through reforms in sentencing, charging, and supervision policies and procedures.

Sentencing Reform

Addressing our nation’s over incarceration crisis begins with advancing sentencing reforms that decrease state incarceration and reduce racial disparities.

Developing Policies & Procedures that Restore Dignity

Public Welfare Foundation aims to decrease state incarceration and reduce racial disparities through reforms in sentencing, charging, and supervision policies and procedures. We envision a future where unjust, racially-charged sentencing policies and procedures are replaced with effective measures that promote fairness, redemption and restoration.

Community Reinvestment

It’s time to shift power and resources from systems to communities.

Investing in Effective Community-Based Solutions

It is time to move from investing billions of dollars in failed prison models to investing in proven, effective community-based solutions. Research shows there is virtually no relationship between incarceration and crime rates – and that spending time in prison may actually increase the likelihood of a person’s return. By contrast, studies reinforce that local interventions have positive impacts on people and improve community safety.

The solutions to over incarceration lie with those who are most proximate to the issues. Heroes exist in the very neighborhoods that are most often relegated for being riddled with crime and violence. These models need to be resourced and replicated around the country.

Issue Area: Youth Justice

Prison is no place for kids. Investing in effective community-based visions of justice is good for kids, for families, for communities, and for public safety.

Today across the United States, thousands of children – disproportionately youth of color – languish in locked facilities. It is a sober reminder that our nation continues to choose to warehouse our most valuable asset: our children.

Children are too often referred to a punitive criminal justice system for misbehaviors that would more appropriately be handled within families, schools and communities. Despite research showing that incarceration leads to high youth recidivism rates, as well as poor education, employment, and health outcomes, prosecutors and the courts often fail to use alternatives to incarceration that have been shown to be more effective at rehabilitating young people. Youth of color are disproportionately likely to suffer the harms of these failed policies and practices.

There is a better way.

Public Welfare Foundation supports organizations working in its targeted jurisdictions to advance a fair and effective community-based vision of youth justice, with a focus on ending the criminalization and incarceration of youth of color. In particular, the Foundation makes grants to groups working to:

  • Advance state policy reforms that dramatically restrict youth incarceration, abandon the youth prison model, and adopt community-based approaches for youth in the juvenile justice system;
  • End the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth in the adult criminal justice system; and
  • Support innovative strategies to counter structural racism in the youth justice system, with a particular focus on front-end reforms.

Closing Youth Prisons

  • Shifting resources from warehousing youth to investing in effective, community-based solutions.

Shifting Funds to Effective Community-Based Models

Given the grave damage incarceration does to youth and families, as well as its abysmal public safety outcomes, communities are calling for an end to the youth prison model. A national movement is advancing to shift resources away from simply warehousing kids and instead investing in communities to provide youth with the tools they need to succeed.

Public Welfare Foundation supports programs that advance state policy reforms to dramatically restrict youth incarceration, abandon the prison model, and adopt community-based approaches for youth in the juvenile justice system.

We don’t need more youth prisons, and we certainly don’t need to put more taxpayer dollars into a failed model. Working with our partners, Public Welfare Foundation is forging a new path forward that empowers communities to provide proven and effective supports for its young people

Racial Disparities

  • Investing in innovative strategies to countering structural racism in the juvenile justice system.

Developing Racially-Just Youth Systems

Pervading our nation’s youth justice systems are gross racial and ethnic inequities that cannot be ignored. Despite similar offense rates across demographic groups, youth of color are more likely than their white peers to be referred to and incarcerated in the juvenile justice system, and to be tried and sentenced as adults.

Public Welfare Foundation supports innovative strategies to counter structural racism in the juvenile justice system, with a particular focus on front-end reforms.

Raising the Age

  • Working to end the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth in the adult criminal justice system.

Working to Treat Kids Like Kids

Public Welfare Foundation makes grants to groups who are working to end the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth in the adult criminal justice system.

In the last two decades we have vastly increased scientific knowledge about adolescent brain development. However, in that same time we have accelerated the incarceration of children in direct contravention to what we have learned from the scientific community. Public Welfare Foundation is committed to ensuring that all adolescents and emerging adults are treated in ways that maximize their growth and development to help keep our communities just and safe.

Grants Overview

Public Welfare Foundation awards grants to nonprofits that honor the Foundation’s core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. The Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference and improve lives through policy and system reform that results in transformative change.

Current focus areas include:

  • Organizations developing innovative, transformative approaches to youth and adult criminal justice reform.
  • Black-led movement building focused on dismantling the structures that have caused generations of harm to Black people, building power amongst local Black community members and advancing efforts to reinvest in communities.
  • Organizations and projects focused on investing in community-based solutions that reduce the over-reliance on mass incarceration
  • Reframing the narrative and fostering greater transparency and urgency around the U.S. criminal justice system through storytelling, journalism and other targeted efforts

Grant Types: How We Fund the Work

General Support Grants

General support grants are for day-to-day operating costs or to further the work of your organization. These grants are not earmarked for a particular program or project.

Program or Project Support Grants

Program or project support grants support a specific program or activity of the organization. These are restricted grants and must be used for that program or project.

Special Opportunities Grants

The Special Opportunities Program supports projects reflecting the Foundation’s mission and underlying values. These are one-time only grants that are especially timely and compelling. At times, this kind of grant serves as a laboratory for new ideas.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Organizations applying for funding must hold a 501c3 IRS status.
  • Organizations that do not have this status may apply with a fiscal sponsor.


  • Please note that the Foundation does not fund individuals, scholarships, or international projects.


This page was last reviewed May 26, 2022 and last updated June 24, 2021