Founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2013, FWD.us is a leading advocacy organization focused on promoting policies that will help keep America competitive in the modern economy, beginning with reforming out-of-date criminal justice and immigration systems.
In 2017, Louisiana was known as the “prison capitol of the world,” incarcerating more than 35,700 people and spending more than $700 million per year on prisons. Yet, many of these offenders were in prison for petty, nonviolent crimes. FWD.us, a leading advocacy organization founded in 2013 by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and other business leaders, saw Louisiana as an opportunity to pass meaningful criminal justice reform that would give many inmates a second chance and opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
Our strategy was straightforward: use fact-based arguments and real-life stories to build public support and demonstrate to lawmakers, journalists and online activists that 2017 was the year for Louisiana to pass comprehensive criminal justice reform. In order to pressure a Republican-led state legislature and Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, we developed a robust coalition of supporters, executed an aggressive earned media campaign, hosted educational and community events and oversaw a direct lobbying program.
Over five months, we secured more than 120 earned media hits across the state’s most popular newspapers including The Advocate, Shreveport Times, New Orleans Advocate and American Press. To create an online echo-chamber, we managed the social properties of Smart on Crime Louisiana – a criminal justice advocacy group – in order to implement a sustained promotional campaign garnering more than one million Facebook impressions and 80,000 Twitter impressions. Further, we worked with the Louisiana Family Forum to create two web videos discussing faith-based arguments for reform since 90 percent of Louisiana voters identify as Christians. More than 5,000 Louisianans viewed the videos and five lawmakers said that they would support the reform package after hearing the Forum’s arguments.
Lauded as a historic achievement, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed 10 criminal justice reform bills into law in June 2017, while surrounded by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. State officials estimate that the reforms will reduce the prison population 12 percent and save $262 million in prison spending over the next 10 years. An estimated $184 million will be reinvested in programs to reduce recidivism. In particular, our work to mobilize conservative groups and the business community was lauded by The Advocate as helping carry the legislative package over the finish line. Further, our work was awarded with PRWeek’s 2018 “Best in Public Affairs” and the American Association of Political Consultant’s Campaign Excellence Award for “Best in Public Affairs,” two of the highest accolades in the industry.