Guiding Philanthropic Organizations

Impact Story

The Center for Justice Research has worked diligently throughout the years to influence the narrative of criminal justice reform and direct funding toward effective programs, research, and policymaking. CJR has made several news and other media appearances and contributions to direct attention not only toward challenges within the system but also toward proposed solutions that can be achieved through better—and importantly, more equitable—funding. This includes practical considerations, such as expanding support for community support services or implementing violence interventions, as well as funding for the research that is necessary to inform these solutions.

In 2020, our founding director, Howard Henderson, alongside a group of doctoral students, worked with the City of Houston on the mayor’s Police Reform Task Force. The final police reform report, created by a task force of 45 people, included 104 reform proposals in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Houston native. Some of the adopted reforms included an improved Independent Police Oversight Board, a ban on no-knock warrants, new body camera procedures and regulations, and an increase in community input.

In 2020, Arnold Ventures and the Greater Houston Community Foundation held a webinar in which Center for Justice Research Director Howard Henderson and other panelists spoke to donors about criminal justice realities, research, and funding. Dr. Henderson noted how 81% of faculty in doctoral granting criminal justice/criminology programs are White, outlining a need to diversify evidence-based determinations (i.e. researchers). He further discussed the need for a culturally responsive approach to criminal justice reform, given the severe racial and socioeconomic disparities plaguing the system. Numerous panelists discussed these disparities and the need to address socioeconomic divides that contribute to crime and mass incarceration.

In an interview for Lexis Nexis’s Law360, Dr. Henderson also emphasized the importance of data-driven research in identifying and testing the efficacy of criminal justice reform solutions. Equally important, however, is community engagement. In seeking funding for CJR and in directing funding to other organizations and criminal justice reform causes, we prioritize the voices of community members with lived experiences. Those most affected by criminal justice harms and inequities must be part of the solution.

CJR also maintains strategic corporate social justice partnerships, addressing barriers to equity and inclusion within organizations, providing representation at employee meetings, strategizing community engagement and corporate social responsibility plans, and providing culturally responsive research training.

Our primary goals in redirecting the criminal justice reform narrative at the local, state, and national levels is to reduce racial and class-based disparities in the system, put an end to mass incarceration, and ultimately, provide for healthier, safer, and more economically secure communities.

We have spent considerable time consulting philanthropic organizations around the spaces to fund in the areas of police and criminal justice reform. You also consider including the countless news and media interviews and mentions where we are attempting to redirect the justice reform narrative.

Here is an example with the Greater Houston Community Foundation and Arnold Ventures: