Chicago Beyond Announces Partnership with JustLeadershipUSA to Launch Pilot Program for People Formerly Incarcerated to Enact Change Within Criminal Justice System

October 11, 2023

Chicago-Based Program will Train Emerging Leaders to Build a Movement for Justice in Cities Nationwide

CHICAGO (October 11, 2023) – Chicago Beyond, a philanthropic organization that works to ensure all young people and community members are free to live full lives, today announced a $450,000 investment in JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to decarcerating the United States by educating, elevating, and empowering the people and communities most impacted by systemic racism. The investment will support a pilot program that will build a strong bench of formerly incarcerated (FI) and directly impacted (DI) individuals who can make meaningful change in their community and beyond.

Too often, criminal justice policies and attempts at national reform do not center those impacted by the carceral system. These gaps create missed opportunities for DI individuals to create and implement effective solutions for reform. JLUSA has recognized the need for an approach that centers those who have experienced the criminal justice system, which equips and enables them to be leaders who drive change based on the integrated needs they know exist in their community.

Over the course of two years, and with the support of Chicago Beyond, JLUSA is creating a pilot program that invests directly in people who have experience with the criminal legal system through training and technical assistance, mentoring, and capacity building.

Chicago Beyond’s investment also includes one-year grants that will be given to six local leaders making a difference in their communities through their work. JLUSA will provide the six leaders with hands-on training while supporting them in their community-based work that is helping to advance comprehensive racial equity and economic mobility within their communities.

“Our partnership with JustLeadershipUSA embodies a transformative shift, placing the voices and experiences of those who’ve been affected by the criminal justice system front and center,” said Liz Dozier, Founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond. “We’re committed to providing tools, resources and support for those who were formerly incarcerated and to continue to advocate for change across the country.”

The pilot program will begin by recruiting local leaders who have direct experience of the criminal legal system to attend a two-day, in-person Emerging Leaders™ (EL) training on leadership, advocacy, and policy, with a specific focus on the issues directly impacting Chicago, and who also will be eligible to apply for the grants.

The grant awardees will participate in two EL Training Programs, EL Intensive workshop, and a trauma and self-care healing retreat. The EL Training Program will include various workshops and events focused on leadership, communications, policy, fundraising and grant writing, nonprofit board development, and operations. Awardees will also meet monthly with an Executive Coach assigned by JLUSA. The objective of these learning events and coaching sessions is to equip participants with the tools to build and lead a movement for justice in the Chicagoland area.

“JustLeadershipUSA is so excited to be partnering with Chicago Beyond to develop a deep bench of justice-impacted leaders to continue the fight for criminal justice reform in the Chicagoland community,” said JLUSA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins. “Over the years, we’ve had some amazing leaders from Chicago come through JLUSA programs, and we can’t wait to meet and work with these six emerging leaders to help them reach the next level in their justice work.”

JLUSA is planning a long-term strategic investment in areas where the consequences of the injustice of the criminal legal system, systemic oppression, and historical racism are most keenly felt. In light of this vision, JLUSA is spending two years investing in leaders in the Chicago and Illinois area, to grow the movement and capacity of DI leaders, to raise the voices of their communities, to end mass incarceration and systemic oppression.

To learn more about this partnership, please visit To learn more about JLUSA’s Emerging Leaders™ training, please visit The Chicago EL training is scheduled for February 2-3, 2024. More details to be announced.

Sign up for email updates to learn how to apply



About Chicago Beyond:
Chicago Beyond is a philanthropic organization that works to ensure all young people and community members are free to live full lives. Because there is no single barrier to equity, Chicago Beyond engages in opportunities across philanthropy, justice, education, and beyond. Since its inception in 2016, Chicago Beyond has invested more than $49 million in almost 200 individuals and community organizations while leading national systems change efforts by designing, supporting, and building out community driven solutions. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

About JustLeadershipUSA:
JustLeadershipUSA is the largest criminal justice organization in the country that is both founded by and led by formerly incarcerated people. As such, we are the go-to resource for the justice-impacted community on issues related to criminal justice reform in America. Our mission is to educate, elevate, and empower those directly impacted by the criminal legal system so they can be active change agents in dismantling the racist and oppressive systems that continue to marginalize them and their communities. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter/X, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Stephen Knight

Your donation to JLUSA empowers directly impacted people.

Thank you so much for supporting our mission here at JLUSA! Your donation helps to support our network of leaders working to dismantle oppressive systems and uplift people and families impacted by mass incarceration across the country.

All charitable donations made to JLUSA are fully tax deductible, as allowable by the IRS.