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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Equal Justice USA Inc

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Causes: Civil Liberties, Civil Rights

Mission: Equal Justice USA (EJUSA) is a national organization working to transform the justice system to one that heals and restores lives. Our work includes ending the death penalty, strengthening programs that help crime survivors address trauma and rebuild their lives, and promoting trauma-informed responses to violence that can save lives and help heal communities.

Results: We are best known for 20 years of advocacy on the death penalty, during which we ended the death penalty in six states together with our state partners, organizing around some of the most egregious acts of violence addressed by our justice system. That work exposed us to the extensive trauma experienced across the system and shaped our analysis about the futility of asking a traumatizing justice system to carry out such essential functions as healing and community safety in the aftermath of violence. We worked with survivors who taught us about the unique trauma of losing a loved one to homicide, the extreme lack of services, and the ways that the justice system failed them. We worked with former wardens who carried out executions and taught us about the secondary trauma to corrections officers who are asked to do impossible jobs under the harshest conditions. Most importantly, capital cases uniquely must include a full life history of the defendant, so people on death row provide incredible case studies of the background of those who commit the most heinous crimes. Unsurprisingly, so many of them have a mountain of unimaginable, unaddressed trauma in their pasts. The common thread of trauma among all of these actors – those inside the system and those impacted by it on both sides – presented a roadmap for future solutions in the justice system. In 2008 we began the process of expanding our vision and programs to make those solutions a reality.

Geographic areas served: National

Programs: We run three programs: (1) a campaign to end the death penalty, for which we are best known (2) a project to bring racial equity to victim services by helping groups that support crime survivors in communities of color to gain access to new resources and expand their reach, and (3) a Trauma Advocacy Initiative, which promotes a transformed vision for a justice system that is both trauma-responsive and restorative through local collaborative work with public health and criminal justice systems as well as national communications on a public health approach to the justice system.

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