April 5, 2013, Christian Science Monitor
Tackling the world’s most vexing social problems is a challenge for even the biggest foundations but much more daunting for small ones. Nonetheless, it is possible for small foundations to bring about large-scale change. At the Tow Foundation … we learned this when we decided to take on one such problem—our state’s failing juvenile-justice system. The United States leads the world in incarcerating young people. Every year, juvenile courts handle an estimated 1.7 million cases in which a youth is charged with a delinquency offense. That’s about 4,600 delinquency cases a day. Over 70,000 juvenile offenders are not living in their homes on a typical day but are held in group homes, shelters, and other juvenile-detention facilities. An estimated 250,000 youths are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year across the country. Most of the young people prosecuted in adult court are charged with nonviolent offenses. With just two staff members, we decided to focus our grants on local organizations that were working to change how the courts treated young people. Some 300 grants and $12 million later, we can confidently say we have gotten an excellent return on our investment. When the Tow Foundation first started examining the situation, Connecticut’s system was one of the worst in the country, with deplorable conditions of confinement. Two influential reports released in recent weeks have called Connecticut a national leader in reducing the number of young people who are placed in detention facilities and prisons.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.