U.S. Programs - Center on Crimes, Community & Culture

About the Center


fostering innovation

The dominant crime-control strategy in the United States today is deterrence through incapacitation, or incarceration. Ever increasing numbers of people are being held in jails or prisons. At the same time, alternative strategies that are equally or more effective in controlling crime and enhancing public safety--many with far lower economic and social costs--are largely ignored. And yet Americaís future as an open society depends to a significant degree on whether we fully explore and utilize these alternatives. A sense of safety is one of the hallmarks of an open, democratic society. But so is a commitment to incarcerating only people who pose a real threat to society--prisons are by definition closed societies. Defining and maintaining a balance between these two interests is at the heart of the Centerís work. Since its inception in June 1996, the Center has sought to promote dialogue on crime and critical public safety issues and to chart a strategic course for social change. Through grantmaking, research, and fellowships, the Center works to create a better understanding of and support for humane, effective responses to crime to enhance the safety of all communities, while preserving the values of an open, democratic society.

Grantmaking. As a private grantor in the arena of crime and public safety, the Center makes a special effort to look for programs which foster innovation. In 1997, the Center awarded $8.4 million to 110 organizations. More than two-thirds of the grants supported direct services in prisons, jails, and communities across the nation. A small number of grants supported advocacy and research. In its grantmaking, the Center supports nonprofit agencies and community groups and collaborates with government agencies. The Centerís 1998 grantmaking is national in scope and focuses on six priority areas: defining and bridging the gap between victims, defendants, and their families; increasing public safety through effective prevention and post-release programs; seeking new solutions for intimate violence; preventing youth gun violence; defining community and police roles in public safety; examining the economics of criminal justice policy. The Center will also award a series of capacity building grants to leading service and advocacy organizations, and will support community grants for criminal justice programs in New York City and Baltimore.

Research. Through the research and policy component of its work, the Center seeks to redirect the public policy debate on criminal justice away from political preferences and short-term solutions. The Center produced several publications in 1997. Education as Crime Prevention, a research brief presenting the most recent data on the impact of education on crime and crime prevention, examines the debate on providing higher education to inmates, and suggests recommendations for the use of education in correctional facilities. This brief generated significant interest from correctional facility administrators and the media (232 requests). As a direct result, the Center is exploring the possibility of a partnership on a state-sponsored educational initiative for prisoners. The Pathfinder on Domestic Violence in the United States, a reference tool that defines domestic violence-related issues, has the goal of broadening the debate about what constitutes domestic violence. The book outlines printed and electronic resources that facilitate multidisciplinary research. Toward the end of the year, the Center began work on Domestic Violence: National Directory of Professional Services, a follow-up reference to the Pathfinder that addresses the information needs of victims and their advocates.

The Soros Justice Fellowship Program. The goal of the Soros Justice Fellowship Program is to create leaders in the field of criminal justice who are committed to finding more humane and effective responses to crime and victimization. There are two types of Soros Justice Fellows: Senior and Postgraduate. Senior Fellows work independently on research, writing, program design, and community development, while Postgraduate Fellows are sponsored by, and work within, nonprofit or criminal justice-related government agencies. Both Senior and Postgraduate Fellows design and implement a criminal justice project, with the ultimate goal of stimulating public debate on controversial criminal justice issues. In 1997, after a rigorous selection process, 41 public health professionals, legal advocates, and leading academics were selected to be Soros Justice Fellows.

Breakfast Series & Symposia. Furthering its efforts to enhance the public debate on public safety issues, the Center in 1997 hosted four breakfast seminars where leading experts, practitioners, members of the media, and others were participated in lively, constructive discussions. Forum topics included Bridging the Gap: Victims and Defendantís Rights; Youth Gun Violence; Police Brutality; and Prison Industries.

To find out more about the Center on Crime, Communities & Culture, visit their website.


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