MacArthur has announced three grants totaling $3.5 million in support of three major institutions working to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of individuals living in the United States.

"This group of grants is designed to recognize and support the important role that major civil rights institutions play in defending civil rights and personal liberties in this country," said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of MacArthur. "Our support will help these organizations in their work on such issues as reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system and addressing the need for increased vigilance to balance individual rights and liberties with increased national security concerns. The organizations we are supporting have long and distinguished traditions of important and effective work."

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) was awarded a grant of $1.5 million over three years for general institutional support and for its endowment fund. NCLR is the largest Hispanic organization in the country, serving Hispanic groups of all nationalities in all regions of the country. It has more than 300 local affiliate organizations that provide education, training, information, and other resources to meet the needs of local constituents. NCLR also operates the Washington-based Policy Analysis Center that conducts research on issues such as immigration, education, housing, tax policy, economic and workforce development policy, and civil rights. Combining its expertise in grassroots organizing and policy work, NCLR conducts public education and policy research and analysis that promotes respect for civil rights and civil liberties and addresses the ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system and promotes reform, particularly as it relates to the treatment of Hispanics.

A grant of $1 million over two years was awarded to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation in support of general operations. The ACLU is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization devoted to protecting the basic civil liberties of all people in the U.S. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, the ACLU works to safeguard constitutional rights, including First Amendment principles, the right to equal protection under law, the right to due process, and the right to privacy. The grant will help the ACLU continue its work on issues related to racial equality, reproductive rights, voting rights and workplace rights as well as newer issues that include privacy and free expression on the Internet and the protection of civil liberties in a more protective national security environment. In particular, funding is intended to help the ACLU promote fairness and equality in the criminal justice system, with a special emphasis on people of color. This includes work to combat racial profiling in law enforcement, racial bias in sentencing, inhumane prison conditions, and the disenfranchisement of ex-felons.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. received a grant of $1 million over two years for general institutional support. Using the legal system as its main tool, but also engaging in legislative advocacy, educational outreach, coalition building and policy research, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) works to secure the constitutional rights of African Americans and to eliminate racial barriers to equal opportunity. This work includes efforts to protect minorities and the poor against police and judicial misconduct and to protect the rights of all Americans facing criminal proceedings. In its efforts to improve the functioning and fairness of the criminal justice system, the LDF also works to ensure the appointment of qualified and independent judges. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund was established in 1940 as the legal arm of the civil rights movement in the U.S. Under its founder and first Director-Counsel, Thurgood Marshall, the LDF became well known for its victory on the case of Brown v. Board of Education, which worked to desegregate public schools across the country. Almost fifty years after the Supreme Court ordered school desegregation, LDF continues to challenge discriminatory school policies and practices and also plays an important role in establishing and ensuring the implementation of fair housing principles. 

As part of the Foundation's support for organizations engaged in work related to civil rights and liberties, a grant of $1 million over three years was made to the Institute for Opportunity and Equality and the Urban League last year. The Washington, DC-based Institute is designed to provide analysis on the impact of public policy on African-American and urban communities.

Human Rights & International Justice, Human Rights