EJI’s largest funder, the JEHT Foundation, will shut down at the end of this month and will not be able to provide grants committed to EJI for the next three years because its funds were stolen by money manager Bernard Madoff.
In mid-December, JEHT announced that it would close its doors after learning that all of its money was lost in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which robbed investors of over $50 billion. EJI was informed that it would not get the funds it anticipated receiving in late December to cover operations for 2008.
EJI relied on JEHT funding for nearly 25% of its annual budget. The abrupt loss of such a significant amount of support has left EJI struggling to provide legal assistance to death row prisoners and incarcerated people around the country.
“The timing of this major loss of funding could not be worse,” said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. “We’re facing an unprecedented demand for help, our resources already were stretched thin, and we have no opportunity to recover the lost support.”
JEHT is one of only a few foundations that focus on criminal and juvenile justice. With the recession already compromising the ability of nonprofit organizations like EJI to raise enough money to cover operating costs, the closing of JEHT and other charities whose money was stolen by Madoff will have a disastrous impact on nonprofit organizations and the people who depend on them for help.
JEHT’s funding was especially critical for EJI’s national work challenging death-in-prison sentences imposed on 13- and 14-year-old children. JEHT provided most of the funding for this project.
EJI’s litigation and re-entry work on behalf of people who were sentenced to die in prison for offenses that happened when they were 13 or 14 years old yielded a victory in November 2008, when EJI won Phillip Shaw’s release from a Missouri prison. The litigation campaign, which so far has included legal filings in over a dozen cases in ten states, is the only one of its kind in the country.
“Losing JEHT’s support is devastating to our work, especially to our campaign on behalf of young children sentenced to die in prison,” Stevenson said. “We’re going to have to re-evaluate whether this is work we can continue.”