Image Courtesy of the Corporation for National and Community Service

As part of Phase 2 of the Spark Grant program, the Michelson 20MM Foundation has awarded a grant to Impact Justice for its California Justice Leaders program. CJL is the first of its kind AmeriCorps program specifically designed for young adults who have been justice involved. Impact Justice is a national innovation and research center advancing new ideas and solutions for justice reform. Impact Justice was founded in 2015 on an idea: to create an organization that would imagine, innovate, and accept absolutely nothing about the status quo of our current justice system. Impact Justice is committed to fostering a more humane, responsive, and restorative system of justice in our nation. 

Involvement in the criminal justice system can impact a person’s ability to thrive long after they have returned to their community. Finding living-wage employment and safe and affordable housing, as well as rebuilding healthy relationships within one’s family and community, can be difficult and overwhelming. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is nearly five times higher than the unemployment rate for the general U.S. population. The Michelson 20MM Foundation believes that the justice involved population deserves opportunities for meaningful occupations after their incarceration. Through Impact Justice’s work we are proud to support a program that provides jobs for those who are formerly incarcerated and mentorship to those going through the discharge process.

The California Justice Leaders is a three-year pilot program that will recruit, place, and employ 40 young adults with prior criminal or juvenile justice involvement for a year of paid service in a community-based organization in Los Angeles, Fresno and Sacramento counties. Throughout their year of service, members will receive a monthly living allowance while they serve as navigators for youth and young adults currently in or recently released from California’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities. They’ll also receive significant leadership training and professional development for themselves, which will provide the skills and social capital necessary for members to enter the professional workforce as community leaders, justice field professionals, and agents of change. After completing a one-year, part-time term of service, CJL members will be eligible to receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to pay education costs at qualified institutions of higher education, for educational training, or to repay qualified student loans. 

For CJL members, this program will provide a foundation for personal and professional growth where members can become and continue to be contributors and leaders within their community. CJL will also will provide members direct access to the AmeriCorps network, which offers additional networking, education, and career opportunities.  The training and development components will help members build their resume, increase their experience, expand their social and professional network, and serve as a stepping stone for future employment, career, and educational opportunities. 

This program will also have a direct impact on youth and young adults who are in or have recently returned home from DJJ and will be served by CJL members. Members will provide coaching and guidance to program participants by connecting them with resources and services, including assistance with employment and education needs. The overall goal of this program is to use CJL members as peer navigators who will guide participants through the reentry process in an effort to decrease their risk of re-incarceration and increase these youth and youth adults ability to remain in the community. 

The Michelson 20MM Foundation and its initiatives are made possible by the generous support of Gary K. Michelson, M.D. and his wife, Alya Michelson. We will be conducting Phase 3 of the Michelson Spark Grant program in Q1 of 2020. To learn more please visit our webpage or sign up for notifications via the form below.