Human Impact Partners — Criminal Justice Convening

Human Impact Partners staff reviewed this page prior to publication.

Note: This page was created using content published by Good Ventures and GiveWell, the organizations that created the Open Philanthropy Project, before this website was launched. Uses of “we” and “our” on this page may therefore refer to Good Ventures or GiveWell, but they still represent the work of the Open Philanthropy Project.

As of the time of this writing, criminal justice reform is a priority cause within our work on U.S. policy, and we have therefore prioritized it for possible grantmaking.

The Open Philanthropy Project recommended a $60,990 grant to Human Impact Partners (HIP) to support a convening intended to advance a public health approach to criminal justice policy. This event will bring together professionals in both public health and criminal justice reform in order to develop a vision of a health-based approach to criminal justice and an agenda to achieve that vision.

HIP is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, CA that works to increase the consideration of health and equity in decision-making.1 It accomplishes this through research, advocacy, and capacity building.2 This convening will be a component of its Health Instead of Punishment program, which aims to advance the use of public health science in criminal justice reform.3

The November convening will take place in New York City and will include approximately 45 participants. The backgrounds of the attendees will range across fields including policy, advocacy, funding, and research. The additional funding provided by the Open Philanthropy Project will mostly be used to help cover travel costs and to pay for staff time.

Our decision to make this grant was based primarily on the recommendation of Chloe Cockburn, our Program Officer for Criminal Justice Reform. We believe that this convening represents the first attempt to bring together criminal justice reform and health experts from multiple jurisdictions to discuss a health-based approach to addressing harms currently processed by the criminal justice system. Chloe considers the quality of the planned attendees at this convening to be very high, and believes that this meeting could initiate a practical agenda to induce change.

We believe that there are a number of plausible beneficial outcomes of this convening. First, a robust discussion between leading criminal justice reformers and health experts that examines the premises of a health-based approach to criminal justice reform could lead to an improved analysis of the benefits and uses of this approach, as well as any drawbacks. The key premise is that refocusing social policies in response to harm to emphasize the health and healing of all individuals involved can improve the wellbeing of those implicated in the harm, reduce the flow of people into the criminal justice system, reduce harm and violence, and promote rehabilitation. Second, while some of the attendees have previous relationships, many will be meeting for the first time at the convening. These interactions can strengthen the field and open channels for good ideas coming out of the meeting to connect with policy reform opportunities.

We believe that without Open Philanthropy’s support, HIP would be unlikely to receive external funding for this convening. Our understanding is that the meeting’s speculative nature and cross-sector approach have made fundraising from other foundations difficult.

Without the funding from the Open Philanthropy Project, the convening would likely have been less productive: HIP would have had to reduce the number of participants; attendees would have been required to pay for their own travel and lodging, which would have been an obstacle for many community organization participants; and HIP would not have been able to hire a professional facilitator.

The Open Philanthropy Project maintains some reservations about the grant. As this convening represents an early stage initiative in this area, it is difficult to foresee what longer-term effects it may have, or what potential obstacles the area may face in the future. In addition, we believe that there is some risk that a convening of this kind may not fully explore the potential limitations of a health-based approach to criminal justice. However, we do not see these as strong enough reasons not to fund the convening.


HIP, Health Instead of Punishment Convenings Source
HIP, Convening Budget Source
HIP, “About Us” Source (archive)