The Pritzker Family Foundation maintains a portfolio of investments in Civil & Human Rights (CHR), which work to expand and protect the equal rights of all residents of Illinois. The foundation focuses on supporting change initiatives to eradicate systemic barriers and ensure that all people and communities have access to the rights guaranteed under our nation’s constitution and our state’s laws. Recently, our investments have targeted two strategic objectives: reduce the number of women involved in the criminal justice system and respond to urgent threats that curtail the civil rights of Illinoisans, particularly those who are immigrants or refugees. Additional targeted strategies are currently in development.

Featured Strategy:  Reducing the number of incarcerated women in Illinois by 50% by 2027.

Featured Grantee: Women’s Justice Institute

Today, women are not only the fastest-growing prison population in the United States, but the United States is the largest jailer of women in the world. Consistent with these trends, the Illinois women’s prison population grew 767% between 1980 and 2014 — exceeding the national growth rate of 700% — and reached its highest five-year average population in state history from 2010-2015. As an estimated 80 percent of incarcerated women are mothers (and far more often serve as custodial parents than incarcerated men) leading to an outsize impact on children and families.

With support from the foundation, the Women’s Justice Institute (WJI) created a women’s justice task force consisting of formerly incarcerated women leaders, national experts, justice system representatives, government, and a diverse team of key local stakeholders from some of the most impacted counties in Illinois (jails/prisons, courts, probation, academia, social services) to spur actionable ideas and collaboration needed to achieve a 50% prison population reduction for women over the next five to seven years. The resulting plan will also create a standard that promotes gender-responsive, trauma-informed, and family-centered policies and practices that will lead to reduced harm caused to women in the current system and promote improved well-being outcomes among them.

Below are a few resources related to the work of the WJI.

The Sentencing Project’s Factsheet on Women and Girls in Prison

The Sentencing Project’s Factsheet on Parents in Prison

Gender Informed Practices Assessment at Logan Correctional Center