Request for Proposals and 2024 Grant Application Information

CJI’s Leadership Circle is requesting proposals from formerly incarcerated people and directly impacted people-led grassroots organizations working to transform and reimagine the current U.S. criminal legal system, building to create new alternative community-based solutions and organizing to stop the criminalization of marginalized identities and communities.

We fund alternatives outside of the current legal and cultural systems of oppression, prioritizing  those that empower communities to lead their own alternatives. In supporting the crucial work of building infrastructure that replaces the current system, which is rooted in racism and inequity, CJI also prioritizes groups enhancing the safety of communities that are victims of state-sponsored violence (both overt and insidious), those affected by the criminalization of protests and those working toward community healing. We will support the crucial work of building infrastructure that replaces the current system.

CJI believes that formerly incarcerated movement leaders and their organizations, working at the grassroots and drawing from experience, must be at the forefront of determining the solutions that will move us forward. The movement must also push back against the emergence of tools of repression, however disguised. The time is now for innovative approaches to building a vibrant movement that engages the imaginations of directly impacted communities creating the solutions and alternatives to disrupt, dismantle and establish new systems for justice. 

This year, CJI will support movement-building* organizing that is based in Creating the World –WE Demand NOW! We want to support the efforts that:

  • build alternatives to create safe and healthy communities that don't rely on arrest and incarceration
  • invest in approaches that seek to end mass criminalization and incarceration
  • create policies to reform and dismantle current repressive criminal legal systems
  • lift up the leadership and experience of those affected by the criminal legal system, regardless of the type of detention (e.g. jail, prison, ICE detention, etc)
  • re-establish rights and access to those formerly incarcerated and newly criminalized; e.g. intersections of reproductive health & justice, protesting & resisting oppression and repression
  • promote transformative and restorative justice that heals, builds across movements and collaborations to effectively address the current criminal legal system. 

CJI defines movement building as: 

An ongoing collaboration, both within and across communities, intended to eradicate core systems of injustice. Collaborations may include those among grassroots or community organizations and/or between grassroots/community organizations and people or groups working with transparency and integrity inside the institutions they seek to transform; eg (Community Review Boards, Arrest Divergence Programs, etc. 

The deadline for this application is June 21st


CJI will ONLY fund:

  • Organizations with a demonstrated commitment to including the leadership of people who have been incarcerated (defined as confinement in prison, jail, immigrant, juvenile or military detention, or deportation facility), and/or others who have been directly impacted by the system, including primary family members of incarcerated people. 
  • Organizations committed to achieving systems change through organizing, including changes in policies or institutions, such as parole, probation or other systems of control or building community based interventions and disruptions to end mass criminalization and incarceration.
  • Organizations with budgets of $1 million or less. We are committed to supporting the smaller, emerging organizations and give consideration to those with smaller budgets. If you are under the umbrella of a larger organization, please define your relationship with that organization
  • Previous grantees that have provided a CJI Progress Report with information about their most-recent CJI-funded work.
  • Organizations that meet the application deadline with all their required attachments. To accommodate the increased number of proposals due to an open application process, CJI will hold applicants strictly to the application deadline.

NOTE: CJI does not fund direct assistance programs. However, CJI may fund organizations that, as part of a larger organizing strategy and or leadership development plan, help provide basic necessities to communities in desperate need; e.g. diapers to single parents in or near poverty; shelter to trans community members who suffer double digit housing insecurity, food to communities living in poverty, as long as these organizations also have an organizing and policy change component. 

CJI Funding Preferences:

  • Organizations led by formerly incarcerated people on staff, board, and/or volunteer leadership capacity
  • Groups that operate in difficult political environments, e.g. in the presence of hostile campaigns, antagonistic public figures, or repressive laws;
  • Groups that develop new leaders, especially from people who are marginalized within their own community, e.g. formerly incarcerated people, poor people, houseless people, young people, elders, queer and trans people, people with mental illness, people with disabilities, etc.
  • Work that addresses discrimination or abuse against people who have been incarcerated or detained, including discrimination in housing, employment, education, voting and parental rights; 
  • Work being done in the South, Indian country on reservations, rancheros, pueblos, missions, villages, etc. and other rural areas; 
  • Organizations with a membership base and an identifiable decision-making process for constituents/members/ or communities;
  • Groups that engage in innovative collaborations, building alliances among organizations with diverse backgrounds and common interests. Strong collaborations may include groups with geographic and demographic diversity (such as race, class, income, immigration status, ability & disability, gender & gender identity, sexual orientation, and age), as well as varying experience with incarceration, or detention. 
  • CJI may fund organizations that provide culturally appropriate healing/inner transformational programs that are connected to the criminal justice movement. We believe that healing is important to develop leadership among those most impacted by the criminal legal system, and to disrupt the cycle of incarceration.


  • RFP Released — Wednesday, May 15th
  • Leadership Circle webinar— Wednesday, May 29th 3:30PM EST  (
  • Eligibility Quiz Deadline — Friday, June 21st 12PM EST
  • RFP Submission Deadline — Friday, June 21st | 11:59PM EST
  • Final Funding Decisions — late September 2024
  • Grants Awarded — November 2024
Circle for Justice Innovations (CJI Fund)