PROJECTCatalyst Grant Program

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COHORT 2022

Felony Murder Elimination Project

Special Circumstances Conviction Project

Los Angeles, CA

“Special circumstances” is a unique penal code in California that allows the state to sentence a person to death or to life without parole (LWOP). The expansive nature of this code and the unbounded prosecutorial discretion in LWOP cases have resulted in significant racial disparities among California’s LWOP population—disparities misunderstood by Southern California prosecutors, policymakers, law enforcement, and the general public. To mitigate those disparities, the state passed the California Racial Justice Act in 2020, which allows people convicted of or charged with crimes to leverage statistical evidence of racially discriminatory sentencing codes in court. Although the act’s passage represents a major breakthrough in addressing staggering racial disparities resulting from the overcriminalization of people of color, it does little to address LWOP sentencing decisions because data on those decisions are still lacking.

With Catalyst Grant funding, the Felony Murder Elimination Project, in partnership with the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, will fill the gap in data around prosecution of people who have been convicted to LWOP. The data will be used to educate the public on the realities of such prosecutions in Southern California, motivate prosecutors to address the sentencing disparities their offices have perpetuated, and make the data usable by and available to public defenders’ offices to assist in litigation, a right afforded by the Racial Justice Act. 

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2022 Grantees


ACT 4 SA
Bexar County, TX

Alabama Appleseed
Jefferson County, AL

Baltimore Witness
Baltimore, MD

Casa San José
Allegheny County, PA

CHOOSE 180
King County, WA

Equiticity Racial Equity Movement
Chicago, IL

Felony Murder Elimination Project
Los Angeles, CA

For The People
Los Angeles and Yolo Counties, CA

Gemeinschaft Home
Harrisonburg, VA

Health and Justice Recovery Alliance
Spokane, WA

Invisible Institute
Champaign County, IL

James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy
Cook County, IL

JusticePoint
Milwaukee, WI

Kheprw Institute
Indianapolis, IN

Kilometro Cero
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Lone Star Justice Alliance
Dallas, TX

Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development
Dane County, WI

New York City Anti-Violence Project
New York, NY

One Love Global
Lansing, MI

Open Austin
Travis County, TX

Polaris
New Orleans, LA