In 2005, The Overbrook Foundation first funded organizations leading the U.S. focused human rights movement.  As a founding partner of the U.S. Human Rights Fund, it responded to the growing interest among U.S.-based social justice organizations to use universal human rights standards and strategies to advance their advocacy. By invoking universal claims to dignity, equality and opportunity that go beyond civil rights protections found in the U.S. Constitution, human rights demands can empower vulnerable communities to define, lead and expand their own campaigns against injustice. 

As a part of its current strategic review, the Foundation is exploring the possible evolution of this initiative toward a focus that supports organizations using human rights values, frames and organizing principles to challenge systems of mass criminalization and incarceration in this country. This focus, if adopted by the Foundation, would take lessons learned from the Foundation’s past human rights grantmaking and apply them to the important efforts challenging mass incarceration and criminalization. 

As this program focus remains in development, it does not involve active grantmaking at this time.  Grants included on this page are 2016 renewal awards to current Overbrook domestic human rights grantees who work on challenging mass incarceration and criminalization.

American Civil Liberties Union

Human Rights Program - $60,000

The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Human Rights Program contributes to the overall development of the U.S. domestic human rights movement through capacity-building and cross-cutting strategies that build coalitions and raise awareness to domestic human rights issues. The ACLU uses human rights instruments and mechanisms, including the human rights legal framework, to effect long-term change and to showcase U.S. abuses of human rights standards, including international and regional advocacy to press for U.S. government accountability.

Innocence Project

Uniting Science and Law on Behalf of Justice: Policy Program - $40,000 (first payment of a two-year grant)

The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. Post-conviction DNA testing has exonerated 325 wrongfully convicted people in the U.S. since 1989, including 20 individuals who had been sentenced to death. The Innocence Project was either the attorney-of-record or assisted in 175 of these cases. The pioneering use of DNA technology has also provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but, instead, the result of systemic flaws that can be identified and addressed. In response, the Innocence Project developed a national policy program to reform the U.S. criminal justice system and protect innocent people from wrongful arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.


General Operating Support - $25,000

JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) was launched by Glenn E. Martin in December 2014 after spending 20 years as a national criminal justice reform advocate. JLUSA is emerging on the criminal justice stage with a bold new approach to reform. The organization was established with the belief that this is a watershed moment in America’s history that must be defined by the meaningful inclusion of those most impacted by our government’s failed policies. Leveraging the guiding principle that those closest to the problem are closest to the solution, JLUSA is investing in the talent of formerly incarcerated leaders and advocates across the country. JLUSA’s core programmatic activities include leadership development, advocacy, membership and communication.

National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

General Operating Support - $50,000

In partnership with communities, the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) works to build a broad movement for economic and social rights. Towards this end, it supports campaigns and projects that strengthen public goods, advance equity and justice, and build power. NESRI offers its partners campaign and coalition support, including documentation, research, alliance building, training and exchange opportunities, communications and strategic campaign planning.  NESRI also works to engage the racial and economic justice field broadly to promote disruptive ideas that can transform oppressive and currently fragmented social systems towards ensuring universal human rights for all communities.

New York Civil Liberties Union

General Operating Support - $35,000

The New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation (NYCLU) works to advance human rights in New York by protecting and expanding civil liberties and civil rights. The NYCLU’s mission is to defend and promote the principles and values underlying our democracy, including freedom of speech and religion, the right to privacy, equality and due process of law. Founded in 1951 as the New York affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, the NYCLU is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization with eight offices and 80,000 members and activists statewide. Through a combined program of public education, advocacy and litigation, the NYCLU promotes the obligations of state and local government to act in accordance with the principles of human dignity and self-determination that are at the core of a free and democratic society. As members of vulnerable populations are most often harmed by discriminatory government policies and practices, the NYCLU’s work primarily focuses on affirming freedom and fairness for communities of color, low-income people, young people, immigrants, members of the LGBT and gender non-conforming community and New York’s women and families.

Solitary Watch

General Operating Support - $30,000

Founded in 2009 in response to a then-invisible domestic human rights issue, Solitary Watch is a national watchdog group that investigates, reports on, and disseminates information on the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails. Its mission is to provide the public—as well as attorneys, scholars, corrections officials, policymakers, educators, advocates, currently and formerly incarcerated people and their families—with the first centralized source for background research, unfolding news, and original investigative reporting on solitary confinement.

US Human Rights Network

General Operating Support and Leadership Transition Support - $55,000

The US Human Rights Network (USHRN) is a national network of organizations and individuals working to strengthen and grow a human rights movement and culture in the United States led by the people most directly impacted by human rights violations. USHRN works to secure dignity and justice for all. Since its founding in 2003, USHRN has been instrumental in providing a unifying human rights framework and platform for shaping activism, connecting struggles, and building the collective power and voice of the grassroots to advance human rights at home.

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