Author: chicagobeyond

Chicago Beyond Invests $3.2 Million in Life After Justice, an Innocence Organization Founded and Led by Exonerees of Color

The Life After Justice team welcomed to Chicago Beyond. October 10, 2022. Roger Morales | Chicago Beyond

Chicago Beyond, an impact investor that works to ensure all young people have the opportunity to live a free and full life, announced today its $3.2 million partnership with Life After Justice (LAJ), a non-profit organization that works to correct unjust laws, exonerate the wrongfully convicted and assist exonerees in rebuilding their lives. 

LAJ was founded in 2012 by Jarrett Adams and Antione Day, two Black men convicted for crimes they did not commit. Adams and Day were both exonerated after serving nearly ten years in prison. When they came home to find a shortage of support services and employment opportunities, Adams and Day created LAJ to provide re-entry support for exonerees. LAJ expanded their mission to tackle the criminal legal system’s deep flaws and injustices in policing, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration that disproportionately impact people of color. Adams later obtained a law degree, clerked on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (the same court that overturned his conviction), began working with criminal justice groups like the Innocence Project, and opened his law practice.  

LAJ’s approach is distinct in that it focuses on the cases of innocent individuals that have no exculpatory DNA evidence, which is considerably more difficult to prove.  Through strategic litigation, LAJ also seeks to correct the 5 key flaws in the legal and legislative systems that are responsible for 80% of wrongful conviction cases: witness misidentification, faulty forensic evidence, false confessions, perjury/false accusations and official misconduct. Importantly, LAJ also addresses exoneree’s personal needs for holistic healing and financial wellbeing.  

 “Chicago Beyond is proud to support a transformative organization like Life After Justice.  Jarrett and his team are committed to righting the wrongs of our nation’s criminal justice system through legislative action, supporting people who were wrongly convicted, and creating holistic healing environments for people released from prison,” said Liz Dozier, Founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond.   

Chicago Beyond’s investment in LAJ is significant to the organization, which has been operating on a volunteer basis, with no institutional funding, since 2012. Chicago Beyond’s partnership and $3.2 million in financial support will help LAJ to:

  • Hire legal and after exoneration program staff; 
  • Support initial case discovery and litigation; 
  • Increase access to holistic mental health care and ancillary services for exonerees; 
  • Build out organizational infrastructure; and  
  • Elevate LAJ’s work in transforming the criminal legal system, which includes securing a clemency petition for Terrence Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne, LAJ’s first major legal challenge that addresses the incongruities that exist between federal and state courts.  

LAJ’s work aims to create lasting change in the legal system on the legislative, judicial, and societal levels. LAJ’s Program Model includes: 

  • Battling Injustice-Strategic Litigation: Change laws, policies, and practices to prevent wrongful convictions by creating new, precedent-setting case law that undoes ill-conceived legislation and the poorly written laws it creates; secure relief or benefits, including monetary awards for exonerees; raise public awareness on injustices and wrongful convictions; and prioritize non-DNA evidence cases. By taking on non-DNA cases, LAJ navigates the appellate process to secure the release of wrongfully convicted individuals, while simultaneously working to change laws that will affect thousands of Americans each year.          
  • Reclaiming Lives-Holistic Mental Health & Wellness Empowerment Programming: Support individuals with the tools and resources they need to process their traumatic experiences by providing access to trained psychologists and therapists;  supply exonerees with technology that helps them to navigate the shifting technological landscape, which can include cell phones and laptops.   
  • Economic Justice Advocacy: Demonstrate and advocate for governments to provide holistic support integral to exonerees thriving post-release, which includes adequate monetary awards and holistic social services. 

Clemency Petition for Terrence Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne 
Currently, LAJ is bringing awareness to a case in Virginia and requesting that President Joe Biden grant clemency and exonerate Terrence Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne.  Richardson and Claiborne have served more than 20 years in federal prison for the 1998 murder of Alan Gibson, a Waverly, Virginia police officer, despite a federal jury finding them not guilty of the crime.  

Richardson and Claiborne pleaded guilty to the murder in state court, accepting plea deals to avoid possible death sentences. A few years later, federal prosecutors added drug trafficking charges, landing both of them in federal court. They were found guilty of a drug charge that would typically result in about ten years in prison, but the judge increased and enhanced their sentence based on their earlier guilty pleas.   

The disproportionate effect the criminal system is having on communities of color can only be described as persistent traumatic stress. The holistic approach of LAJ is to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, pass laws that protect against wrongful convictions and provide the mental healthcare support that is desperately needed,” said Jarrett Adams, Esq., President and Exoneree of Life After Justice.  

The new partnership builds on Chicago Beyond’s Justice Initiatives, a commitment that focuses on strategies to reduce incarceration and increase safety in all communities – including the ones behind the correctional walls – because of both the magnitude of people impacted and the collective trauma of the status quo. Last year, Chicago Beyond became LAJ’s first institutional funder when they received resources through Chicago Beyond’s Rapid Response Fund.  The funding provided LAJ exonerees access to therapy for mental and emotional healing and cell phones and laptops to pursue job opportunities and connect with friends and family.   

To learn more about the clemency petition involving Terrance Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne, click here 

To learn more about LAJ’s work to obtain justice for wrongfully convicted individuals and to protect our future freedom, click here 

To learn more about Chicago Beyond’s work in ensuring all people are free to live up to their fullest potential and live in a just and equitable society, click here.   

The Rise of Black-Owned Birth Centers – Word In Black

Chicago-based certified nurse midwife Jeanine Valrie Logan and doula Shaquan Dupart are opening a birth center on the city’s south side. Photo courtesy of Chicago South Side Birth Center.

This article by Alexa Spencer, was published on November 23, 2022 in Word In Black.

Less than 5% of birth centers are owned by Black or Indigenous folks, or other people of color. But that could change as Black midwives and doulas open facilities to help end the maternal and infant mortality crisis.

As the United States reckons with its Black maternal and infant mortality crisis — where Black mothers and babies are dying mostly due to racism and interventions in hospitals — Black birth workers are building birth centers to meet families’ needs for safe, culturally competent care.

There were about 380 freestanding birth centers around the U.S. in 2020, according to the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC).

With built-in bedrooms and bathroom suites, these low-tech healthcare facilities provide midwifery care in a home-like environment for pregnant people who are considered “low-risk” for complications.

Research has associated midwifery-led birth centers with low rates of infant and maternal deaths and cesarean sections. Black-owned birth centers, in particular, have been found to produce outcomes that fare better than national averages.

In 2020, amid the response to the murder of George Floyd, Roots Community Birth Center — based in Floyd’s hometown of Minneapolis — had a 0% low birth weight rate, compared to an 8% national average, and 9% cesarean birth rate, compared to 32% nationally.

Roots’ clients — two-thirds of which are Black — also receive at least six visits after their babies are born, which is more than what typical postpartum care offers.

Fewer than 5% of birth centers are owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), according to data from Birth Center Equity, an organization that financially supports BIPOC-led birth centers.

But on Chicago’s South Side, a new Black-owned birth center is springing up while others around the nation roll out their blueprints and follow suit. 

For years, Jeanine Valrie Logan has dreamt of opening a birth center in Chicago, where she supports families as a certified nurse midwife. 

After pushing for legislation to expand Illinois’ birth centers in 2021, she teamed up with local doula Shaquan Dupart to open a facility that can serve a section of the city that is, in some U.S. Census tracts, as much as 99% Black — but which only has four hospitals with maternity wards.

“When people come in the space, [I want] people to realize that they have the knowledge and the technology that they need to achieve their wildest dreams for themselves, for their families, for their children, for their community,” Logan says. “I just want people to come in and kick off their shoes and make some tea and just really feel like they can be at home.”

The midwife-doula duo are bringing Chicago South Side Birth Center (CSSBC) to the city at a time when other medical institutions are bowing out. 

“Specifically on the South Side of Chicago, since 2019, four of our community hospitals have closed,” Logan says. “There are many who still don’t accept all insurances.”

While those challenges persist, Black women are about three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications in Illinois. 

And in Chicago, one of the most segregated cities in the nation, at 14.8%, the rates for preterm birth are highest among Black infants, compared to 8.2% for white infants. 

A 2019 study revealed that Black neighborhoods in the Windy City that were impacted by redlining had higher preterm birth rates than Black neighborhoods not impacted by the racist mortgage practices. 

Logan and Dupart seek to interrupt these trends by establishing a birth center that’s community-centered.

The facility will host three bedrooms, complete with bathtubs and other amenities. 

“Each of the suites have a private courtyard, like a garden. And then behind the birth center is a community garden. So, that’s where we would have outdoor classes or shared space if we want to have food together,” Logan says. 

In addition, Dupart says “there will be a children’s area for when families come. There will be a room for lactation consults. There will be a space where different heroes within the community can come and share their services.”

Yoga teachers, mental health professionals, massage therapists, and other practitioners will be invited to service clients at CSSBC. 

Another unique feature of the birth center is that it will accept Medicaid. 

“We’ll be able to see folks who normally wouldn’t be able to afford an out-of-hospital experience. Or, you know, many birth centers don’t take Medicaid,” Logan says. 

Having a robust reproductive clinic with wrap-around care is also a top priority.

Logan adds, “where a lot of birth centers will only see their birthing clients prenatally and postpartum, we want to see folks in community for STD testing, pregnancy tests, paps, any abnormal bleeding issues, family planning, and gender-affirming care.”

The CSSBC team launched a 90-day fundraising campaign to raise $400,000 for their new building. They currently have about 30 days left to meet their goal. 

On “Giving Tuesday,” the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, they plan to share 3D photos of the birth center on social media. 

As the center prepares to officially open its doors, Dupart envisions the facility as a place that will positively impact local families for generations to come.  

“We always say that healing takes seven generations forward and seven generations back. And I hope that this birth center can be a part of that healing back and forward,” she says. 

“I hope that people are able to come here and just feel safe and a sense of community and that it is a place to help. Because I know that this birth center alone won’t help change that Black birth narrative. We can be one of the catalysts in helping to change that narrative for Black birthing folks in general.”

New Ms. Foundation initiative funds birth justice nonprofits – U.S. News

This article was written by Glenn Gamboa and was published in the Associated Press on October 13, 2022.

When Jeanine Valrie Logan moved to Chicago 12 years ago, she wondered why so many of her pregnant neighbors couldn’t get prenatal care or deliver their babies nearby as her neighbors did when she lived in Washington D.C.

“It was such an amazing place,” she said of the Washington nonprofit Community of Hope. “Black women specifically were coming to get these out-of-hospital services from Black providers.”

Logan, a doula and certified midwife, held onto the dream of offering a similar place on Chicago’s South Side. In the racial reckoning that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, she said, her project began to gain momentum. Recently, Logan received a $50,000 grant from the Ms. Foundation for Women’s new Birth Justice Initiative, designed to support grassroots organizations led by Black, Indigenous and other women of color as they advance more equitable birth outcomes in the country.

Part of that grant money helped buy the building where Logan plans to open the Chicago South Side Birth Center by the end of 2023.

Sona Smith, Ms. Foundation’s Birth Justice program officer, said the foundation launched the initiative this year, donating $1 million this year to grassroots organizations like Logan’s that “build power within the birth justice movement and address race-based health disparities, birth experiences and birth outcomes.”

The growing interest in birth justice comes as interest in the broader issue of reproductive justice is running high after the Supreme Court overturned its Roe vs. Wade decision last summer, allowing states to determine whether abortion is legal for its residents. Experts say birth justice will become more important as concern intensifies over the health of pregnant women, who opt to have children in states banning abortion.

At the Clinton Global Initiative, the gathering of international political, business and philanthropic leaders that convened in New York last month for the first time since 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted that the United States is one of very few countries whose maternal mortality rates have risen in the past 20 years.

“That statistic is so shameful,” she said. “Nationwide, there are dramatic disparities in maternal health outcomes — with the worst outcomes among Black women, underemployed and underinsured people.”

The Ms. Foundation said it was time to focus on changing that, starting at the community level.

“We have decades of experience with supporting grassroots leaders who are fighting for reproductive justice,” Smith said, referring to the launch of the new birth justice initiative this year. “Because our mission is sensitive to building the power of women and girls of color, and we see the data that shows how women and girls of color are so impacted by birth injustice, it just makes sense… We show up for women and girls of color in this country.”

With its first round of funding, the Ms. Foundation sought to fund grassroots, frontline organizations with annual operating budgets under $1.5 million. The demand for grants was so high that the nonprofit plans to offer another round.

“We really wanted to get at those organizations that are oftentimes overlooked by funders, either because they have smaller capacity or they have smaller budgets,” Smith said. “So many organizations have never received foundation funding before. Many of the organizations that have been doing this work have been doing this for a long time, just without foundation dollars. It’s been a labor of love. Or it has been self-funded.”

Danielle Reid said the grant from the Ms. Foundation has given her nonprofit Birthing Cultural Rigor the confidence to seek further grants to expand. The group fights obstetric racism and helps hospitals and caregivers focus on getting Black women and girls proper treatment through their pregnancies.

It was founded by the noted physician and scientist Dr. Karen A. Scott, who is known for her research showing that Black mothers are 400% more likely to die in a hospital than white mothers during pregnancy and birth.

Reid said their “Black-woman-led organization doing work for Black women” was being rejected for grants so often that they wondered if they were doing something wrong.

“We weren’t getting any feedback for grants,” she said. “Then we see people who aren’t scientists, who aren’t doctors, who don’t have the data and the information that we have, and they’re getting millions.”

Birthing Cultural Rigor hopes to use the grant money to further its initiatives to train hospitals and caregivers to change their processes and learn to listen to Black women more closely, without being judgmental, Reid said.

“We want to ensure that Black women and Black birthing people are heard and understood and given the same care that other races get,” Reid said.

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Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.

Nneka Jones Tapia: Holistic safety strategies will improve jail conditions for everybody – The Daily Herald

This op-ed by Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, Chicago Beyond’s Managing Director of Justice Initiatives, was published on October 13, 2022 in Daily Herald.

Every day, millions of incarcerated people are fighting to survive the trauma that occurs in America’s jails and prisons. However, they aren’t the only ones affected by our correctional system. The unfortunate truth is that through training, policies, and procedures, our correctional system actively dehumanizes every individual behind the wall — both people who are incarcerated and the individuals working inside of these institutions.

As a clinical psychologist and former warden of one of the largest jails in the country — Cook County jail in Chicago — I’ve witnessed the cyclical violence that occurs when the system tightens controls and uses punishment as its primary tool. It was also during my tenure at Cook County Jail that I witnessed how people thrive when their environment allows them to be and feel protected, resilient, and whole.

That is what we mean by “holistic safety,” and through my work with Chicago Beyond — an impact investor working toward a more equitable future for young people — I know that there are steps we can take to achieve it.

For example, in 2019, Chicago Beyond partnered with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to create a more trauma-informed approach to family visitation. We started by leveling the playing field so that staff could begin to see similarities in themselves to the people they were historically trained to fear — people who were incarcerated. To do this, we created a web-based training that explained the universal impact of trauma, strategies correctional staff could employ to reduce the impact of their own experience of trauma and strategies they could use to more effectively engage with people who had also been exposed to trauma — every person they encounter in corrections.

We then created a model for trauma-informed, family-friendly visitation based on research literature, community engagement and pilot visitations that were conducted in partnership with the Chicago Children’s Museum and Lurie’s Center for Childhood Resilience, an organization with expertise in child mental health and trauma. In the pilot visitations, incarcerated fathers were able to visit with their children and families in child-friendly spaces like the Chicago Children’s Museum, dressed in plain clothes and in healthy, human interactions with officers and program staff who were also dressed in plain clothes. We then worked with the Sheriff’s Office to embed this visitation model into the fabric of their institution through a robust revision process for policies and procedures.

Through this partnership with a visionary correctional administrator, all of the correctional staff have now been trained in trauma-informed practices, and all people incarcerated (and vaccinated) in the Cook County Jail are able to experience more trauma-informed visitation practices, including the humanizing power of physical touch.

These humanizing changes are also beneficial for staff, allowing them to find meaning in their jobs — connecting families, providing encouragement and hope, and seeing happiness in a field that is often wrought with darkness. At a time when most correctional institutions are severely understaffed, correctional staff at the Cook County Jail have shared that they truly enjoy working in visitation.

This sort of shift away from tightly controlled visitation practices and toward a culture that inspires people to be better humans is a perfect example of what we mean by “holistic safety.”

Another step we can take to make our jails holistically safer is to protect and expand the right to vote for incarcerated individuals.

Research from the National Library of Medicine has shown that disenfranchisement can trigger two psychological stressors: low control and social exclusion. These stressors create a recipe for mental health conditions, unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance use, tense conditions and violence.

Studies have shown that by allowing justice-impacted individuals to vote, we can alleviate these stressors. In 2020, Cook County Jail established the first in-person early voting for a general election. And in this year’s primaries, the jail had a higher turnout than the city as a whole. Other jails like Harris County in Houston, Texas, have followed suit, recognizing that the right to vote can improve conditions at their facilities.

The Sentencing Project, a national research and advocacy group, recently published a national report that highlights ways to guarantee voting access for incarcerated voters. The act of voting can empower justice-impacted individuals and give them a sense of personal agency. This is especially important for people who, through incarceration, may have lost control over their day-to-day activities. It also reaffirms that these individuals are a part of and connected to the community where they reside and actively working to make it better.

Every member of our community — including people who are incarcerated and correctional staff — deserves to feel safe. It is time for us to shift our vision of safety from one focused on control to one that allows every individual in America’s jails and prisons to feel protected, resilient, and whole.

Nneka Jones Tapia is the Managing Director of Justice Initiatives at Chicago Beyond. She was previously the warden of Cook County Jail and was one of the first psychologists in America to lead a correctional facility.

What if philanthropy celebrated Black Abundance? – Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia

This conversation with Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia was released on September 29, 2022.

How would our world look if we truly loved Black people? Just as COVID-19 brought anti-Blackness into view for many across healthcare, education, finance, so too in philanthropy. As many grassroots groups have pointed out over decades, philanthropy, as an institution, is complicit in anti-Blackness. Seeing anti-Blackness as a defining element of institutional philanthropic culture brought us to wonder: What would it look like if philanthropy celebrated Black Abundance instead? What would it look like to celebrate the richness of existing Black-led efforts and to support those efforts in a way that leads to freedom and joy for all?

As funders, we can begin to remedy philanthropy’s unjust practices, policies and outcomes through our explicit and intentional actions. Abundance is a movement in philanthropy to change practice, policy, mindsets, and ways of being to support Black people and communities. Stepping into Abundance in this time is an opportunity to acknowledge and learn. It is an opportunity for collaborative efforts, board engagement, reimagined funder practices—leading to impact for Black people and communities and structural shifts that are generative, generational, and far greater than the sum of their parts.

This session introduced attendees to Abundance, a movement in philanthropy to change practice, policy, mindsets, and ways of being to support Black people and communities.

Inside the System: The Impact of Incarceration – Defy Venture

This conversation with Defy Ventures was released on September 29, 2022.

This virtual panel discussion focuses on the context for Defy’s work. “Inside the System: The Impact of Incarceration” features a panel with wide experience with the criminal legal system, the impact of incarceration, and the role of restorative programming.

Panelists Include:
Maryse Gordon as Moderator, Leader in ESG FinTech, and Defy Tri-State Board Member

Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, Managing Director, Justice Initiatives, Chicago Beyond

Carl Williams, Defy EIT and Owner & Founder of Royal Men Solutions, LLC

Mike Huggins, Founder & Executive Director of the Transformation Yoga Project, and Defy National Board Member

Quan Huynh, Executive Director of Defy Southern California, Author of Sparrow in the Razor Wire

What is trauma-informed funding? – Camelback Ventures

This conversation with Camelback Ventures was released on August 23, 2022.

In this episode of “It’s Not Your Money,” Capital Collaborative Senior Advisor Jessamyn Shams-Lau talks with Chicago Beyond’s Shruti Jayaraman, to discuss trauma-informed funding, how philanthropy can actually be grounded in justice, and the paradox of envisioning equity within an inequitable system.

“It’s Not Your Money: Real Talk About Achieving Racial Equity in Philanthropy” is a space for candid conversations with a host of thought leaders and field experts in philanthropy. Topics are centered around how to purposefully drive meaningful change in order to build a more equitable funding and grantmaking ecosystem.