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Initiate Justice: Amplifying Voices from Behind Walls

Initiate Justice, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles, aims to end incarceration through the power of the directly impacted people. They organize members, both inside and outside of prisons, to advocate for their freedom and criminal justice policy in California.

In 2022, Initiate Justice received a grant from Progressive Multiplier to explore new donation streams. Their conversations brought a creative project to life: The ART (Abolition, Resistance, Transformation) Gallery, a virtual exhibition where art from incarcerated Californians could be displayed and purchased. 

Initiate Justice collected over 250 art pieces from more than 115 incarcerated artists and raised over $4,100 from the pilot. Beyond revenue, the ART Gallery expanded the organization’s reach to new audiences, drawing over 200 people to its opening, streamed live; a video on YouTube collected over 300 views. The gallery’s web presence received over 6,000 unique views, and Instagram videos highlighting specific art pieces were viewed more than 4,800 times. 

When designing the program, ethical guidelines on how to work with incarcerated people and fairly compensate them for their labor were a priority for Initiate Justice. When a search for existing guidelines didn’t yield satisfactory results, they created their own. Now, other organizations want to use Initiate Justice’s guidelines for their own projects. 

Initiate Justice

Initiate Justice sees the ART Gallery as a way to shift the culture around incarcerated Californians and connect the elements of their mission. “One of the goals that we have as an organization is using the stories [behind the art] to build and maintain empathy because we know there needs to be a culture shift to pass laws and change hearts and minds to bring our loved ones home,” said Crystal Cardenas, Inside Membership Director, Initiate Justice. 

The online ART Gallery is open year-round, and Initiate Justice hosted an in-person event in 2023. 

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Initiate Justice, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit has an inside-outside strategy that prioritizes organizing people directly impacted by incarceration inside and outside prison walls. Their mission is to end incarceration through the power of the people who are directly impacted.