2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions

$500,000 Award Recognizes JHA for Extraordinary Creativity and Effectiveness

The Association will use its $500,000 MacArthur Award to establish an innovation fund, as well as to enhance its communications, public outreach, and volunteer coordination capacities.

The John Howard Association (JHA) is one of nine nonprofit organizations around the world, and the only one in Chicago, to receive the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. The Award recognizes exceptional nonprofit organizations who have demonstrated creativity and impact, and invests in their long-term sustainability with sizable one-time grants.


JHA regularly inspects all facilities in Illinois’ adult and juvenile prison systems, monitors parole and reentry mechanisms, and communicates with more than 3,000 inmates, loved ones, and concerned citizens each year to provide assistance and track their experiences. As the sole independent watchdog over the state’s correctional facilities, JHA promotes a cost effective and humane justice system that prioritizes public safety and successful reintegration into society. Through objective monitoring and working closely with those working in and affected by the state’s correctional system, JHA provides insight into Illinois’ prison system, allowing us to educate the public and policy makers about the real consequences of criminal justice policies.

JHA uses monitoring work, research, and policy recommendations to drive reform at the facility, agency and state policy levels. For example, JHA exposed deficits in medical treatment for our adult inmate population leading to public hearings on prison healthcare and an audit of the Department of Corrections healthcare system; following a JHA report on the fundamental flaws of the Half-Way Back program instituted by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, the agency dismantled the program and invested the resources into more effective programming for youth.

According to JHA Interim Executive Director Jenny Vollen-Katz, “JHA plays a vital role in Illinois as the only non partisan watchdog and policy advocate that observes and reports on conditions of confinement, correctional programming and reentry. JHA uses our unique vantage point to promote safe, humane, and effective criminal justice policy. This award will allow JHA to continue and expand the important work of prison reform, stemming the tide of mass incarceration and investing our resources in programs and policies that will improve outcomes for individuals, communities and the entire State.”

“The John Howard Association’s independent voice plays an indispensable role in helping to ensure that Illinois’ justice systems are fair, effective, and humane,” said MacArthur Vice President Elspeth Revere, who leads the awards program. “MacArthur applauds John Howard Association’s creativity and effectiveness, and we hope this recognition and investment will help sustain its work and expand its impact.”

According to MacArthur, the Award is not only recognition for past leadership and success but also an investment in the future. The John Howard Association will use its $500,000 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions to establish an innovation fund that will enhance our communications, public outreach, and volunteer coordination capacities.

For these Awards, the Foundation does not seek or accept nominations. To qualify, organizations must demonstrate exceptional creativity and effectiveness; have reached a critical or strategic point in their development; show strong leadership and stable financial management; have previously received MacArthur support; and engage in work central to one of MacArthur’s core programs.

Additional information about why MacArthur selected the John Howard Association for this Award can be found at http://www.macfound.org/maceirecipients/90/