Using a Venture Fund Investment Structure to Finance Criminal Justice Reform Litigation The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with Louisiana having the second highest rate in the country. Conditions in the Angola State Penitentiary and the various mix of parish prisons and jails are notoriously poor, with troubling mortality rates due to illness and suicide. This situation is not unique to Louisiana. The Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) is a civil rights litigation office created in 2012 to achieve systemic reform that would not otherwise come about through individual representation.
PJI has developed a model for a Civil Rights Litigation Venture Fund (CRLVF), an investment structure used by hedge funds, but refocused here toward criminal justice reform. PJI has initiated this model internally and successfully litigated cases around prison conditions in Louisiana. Successful litigation of these cases not only leads to improved conditions in individual institutions, but there is an opportunity to achieve systemic benefits by ensuring that training, monitoring, and compliance are part of settlements, internalizing the cost of remedying violations. Over time, increasing the cost of incarceration will lead correction departments and criminal justice agencies to seek alternatives and ultimately, lead to decarceration.
Funding from UP will establish a formal Venture Fund structure within PJI to finance ongoing litigation, while awaiting forthcoming returns from previous cases. Returns from these and new cases will be reinvested into the fund to create an evergreen financing vehicle for civil rights litigation and systemic reform efforts. If the model is proven out, UP funding will then be reallocated toward replicating the model in another state.