SCSJ fights for needed systemic reform in the courtroom, classroom and streets; can philanthropy keep pace?
Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series of posts featuring NCRP nonprofit members.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) will argue to the Supreme Court this month that voters should pick their politicians and not the other way around.
The organization fights structural racism and oppression in North Carolina and across the South through a combination of legal advocacy, community organizing, research and communications.
Its long list of wins have protected voting rights, combatted discrimination in the criminal justice system and advanced more equitable discipline practices in schools.
SCSJ promotes civic engagement for the marginalized
If they’re successful, it will go a long way toward securing the full participation of communities of color and low-income people in our elections.
But there will still be plenty of work left to be done. Late last year, North Carolina passed a voter ID law that would disproportionately exclude Black and Native Americans, while making it harder for all to vote. SCSJ filed suit minutes after the law was enacted.
Every vote matters to SCSJ. Years ago in the mayoral race of tiny Mount Gilead (population 1,100), poll officials incorrectly told at least 4 long-time black voters they were not eligible to vote. The margin of victory was only 2 votes. SCSJ stepped in and won a new election for the citizens of Mount Gilead.
SCSJ breaks down obstacles for re-entering citizens
Various laws and policies make it difficult for the formerly incarcerated to move past their mistakes.
That’s why SCSJ organized for a “Ban the Box” policy in Durham County that removed questions about previous convictions or incarcerations on initial job applications. Its white paper on the experience is a handy guide for similar campaigns.
SCSJ helps with the “collateral consequences” of criminal convictions, like difficulties finding housing, employment or occupational training.
It hosts clinics with free legal services to help people receive certificates of relief – a judicial solution SCSJ fought for to help eliminate these collateral consequences.
SCSJ helps marginalized kids succeed
The organization also works to make sure people stay out of the criminal justice system in the first place. SCSJ’s Youth Justice Project takes steps to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.
SCSJ was an important part of a coalition to raise the age of juvenile court in North Carolina, which was the last state to automatically charge 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. That win goes into effect this year.
Youth Justice Project also conducts research on the state of North Carolina’s schools. It published The State of Discipline in NC Schools last year, and puts out regular report cards on how well each of the state’s 115 school districts are doing on racial equity.
Takeaways for philanthropy
Systems change takes time. It’s likely we will still be struggling for voting rights, criminal justice reform, and other means of inclusion and justice for people of color and low-income people years from now.
Knowing this, funders should ask themselves:
Troy Price is NCRP’s membership and fundraising intern. Follow @NCRP on Twitter.