January 28, 2021

Letter from our Executive Director

Dear community,

My belief in and love for people is what drives me in our collective fight to transform the criminal legal system. After all, this work is and has always been about people.

Yes, criminal justice reform is about changing laws and practices; it’s about transforming institutions, electing new leaders, and shaking the deeply rooted legacies of racial and economic injustice and mass punishment that define our nation. But all of that too, is about people. Generations of people, in fact, because once this system takes hold, it keeps a firm and devastating grasp on families and communities.

In our “justice” system, harm begets harm and violence begets violence. At the same time, current interventions fail to keep communities safe or help anyone heal. Crime survivors are left without support or resources. Children lose parents. Parents lose children. Quality jobs and stable housing are quickly out of reach for those with records. Our civil servants, upholding laws and practices that fail to consider human and societal costs – especially the disproportionate application and harm on impoverished communities, communities of color, and Black communities in particular. And after all of this, no one gets help and no one gets better.

It’s time to flip this legacy. It’s time for redemption.

What keeps me going is the impactful and inspiring work happening in our broad movement. I believe this moment, right now, is our best chance for transformation.

Why? Because criminal justice reform is winning in the hearts and minds of Americans. We’re seeing large margins of victory at the ballot box. Businesses are adopting second chance hiring and retention policies. Faith leaders are championing calls for redemption – for individuals and the system itself. Elected officials across the political spectrum are uniting in ways seen on few other issues. This time is ripe for a more just America, and this surge of funding will dramatically speed up the pace of progress.

As we launch the Justice Accelerator Fund this year, we’re acutely focused on listening to and partnering with others – across the country, across rural and urban divides, and across the political spectrum – to build transformative and powerful coalitions that accelerate change. From activists organizing and building power in their communities, to prosecutors pushing for change in their offices, to elected officials and advocates working to advance policy reforms at the state and federal level, to faith and business leaders tackling stigma to build a more inclusive culture – we see you and are at your service.

People and families carry the weight of our harsh criminal legal system. And people, especially those who have lived it, are rebuilding it into something better. We’re here to help power your work years to come, because we know the fight for justice is far from won.

Thank you to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and especially to Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan for providing this historic investment in the criminal justice reform field and for entrusting me to shepherd these resources. Thank you to the Justice Accelerator Fund’s early advisors and my personal mentors. And, most importantly, thank you to the people of this movement, the heroes who get up every morning and fight for a system that looks nothing like the one we have now. The future you’re creating is bright.

In solidarity for the long road ahead,

Ana Zamora [signature]

Ana Zamora