S5E9 (episode #49): Ana Zamora on funding just change in the criminal justice system
In this episode, Ana and Jeffrey discuss Ana’s career journey, how she was drawn into the criminal justice reform, and how she’s ended up going further than she even could have dreamt.
Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/WROp4iIBFFs
Host: Jeffrey M. Zucker
Producer: Kait Grey
Editor: Nick Case
Recording date: 2/28/23
The Just Trust:
Until I crossed over into philanthropy in 2018, I spent my career fighting on the front lines of criminal justice reform—as an organizer, advocate, and campaigner. I’ve been in the trenches of this work when we lost way more than we won. I know the deep, painful sting of losing a major campaign that you’ve thrown your whole heart into. I also know what it feels like to be part of progress. It’s these experiences that built my advocacy chops and taught me that the pathway to real change is crooked, rife with setbacks, and that no map exists to help you traverse it.
My journey began in an administrative role with the California Appellate Project, an organization that provides legal services to people in California facing execution. There I learned about the harm and stigma that our punitive, unforgiving system has on communities and families, including my own. I then spent the next ten years working at the ACLU, ultimately as director of criminal justice reform. Using integrated advocacy, I worked to advance issues including sentencing reform, reducing use of the death penalty, legislative and administrative reforms around wrongful convictions, and greater prosecutorial accountability through voter education and engagement. During these years, I also served in leadership roles in two California ballot measures: as Deputy Campaign Manager for Yes on 34 in 2012 and as Campaign Manager for No on 66 in 2016. And I launched the first ever statewide prosecutor accountability campaign, simply called: “Meet Your DA.”
In my advocacy life, I was deeply frustrated with the extreme lack of resources in our movement—especially for organizations with directly impacted leaders. I saw philanthropy as a critical unlock and eventually moved into a new role as director of criminal justice reform at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), which became one of the largest funders of frontline criminal justice reform work in the country—a $143 million portfolio in just under three years. My team at CZI backed key wins like Measure 110 in Oregon to decriminalize all drug possession; helped defeat Proposition 20 in California, which sought to roll back key justice reforms; funded the Clean Slate Initiative, supporting record-clearing policies for millions of people in Pennsylvania, Utah, Michigan, and other states; and, importantly, supported countless reform and organizing efforts led by directly impacted groups, in states often passed over like West Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina.
In my personal life, I am proud to serve on the Board of Directors of Openhouse in San Francisco, which serves LGBTQ+ seniors. It’s an honor and a privilege to now lead The Just Trust—where I get to wear all of my hats and channel the stings of losses, the glory of wins, and the hope that I feel from across this powerful, diverse, ever-evolving fight for justice, safety, and wellbeing.