I get asked this question often.  How can a small foundation with few staff really catalyze large scale social change?  In fact, how can a foundation of any size play this role?  At The Tow Foundation, we have attempted to play a significant role in juvenile justice reform, an issue that seems like an intractable problem and not easily tackled by a small family foundation.

The United States leads the world in the rate of incarcerating its own citizens.  We imprison more of our own people than any other country on earth and stand alone as the world’s leader in incarcerating young people.  Every year, juvenile courts in the U.S. handle an estimated 1.7 million cases in which the youth was charged with a delinquency offense, approximately 4,600 delinquency cases per day.  On any given day, over 70,000 juvenile offenders are not living in their homes but are held in residential placement (e.g., juvenile detention facilities, corrections facilities, group homes or shelters). An estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year across the United States.  Most of the youth prosecuted in adult court are charged with non-violent offenses.  These statistics are shameful.

The Tow Foundation, a family foundation based in Connecticut, is committed to the vision that all people deserve the opportunity to enjoy a high quality of life and have a voice in their community.  And that includes those who have made mistakes in their lives and who may have gotten in trouble with the law.  We believe that no child is beyond help.  We could not stand by and say this problem was too big for us to tackle.  So we set off to find out how we could make a difference.

Read the full article about making an impact by Emily Tow Jackson at National Center for Family Philanthropy.