The Pittsburgh Foundation

Small and Mighty: Fight for Lifers West

Fight for Lifers

In 2016, The Pittsburgh Foundation awarded a Small and Mighty grant of $9,000 to Fight for Lifers West. In 2012, a group of mothers of juveniles serving life sentences formed Fight for Lifers West to create public support for changes to Pennsylvania laws and to engage the state legislature in reform. 

This $9,000 grant supported a two-day workshop by an attorney and Fight for Lifers volunteers at the State Correction Institution Forest in Marienville, Pa., to educate 100 inmates about getting their life sentences reduced, and two subsequent volunteer days at the facility. They also facilitated a panel discussion for the public and state legislators about the prevalence and impact of the inmate abuse in jails and prisons and conducted a study of Pittsburgh Public Schools' discipline policies, perceptions and alternatives to the School to Prison Pipeline.

Twenty percent of all juveniles in the United States in prison for life without parole are incarcerated in Pennsylvania. The Small and Mighty grants program, an outcome of the Foundation’s 100 Percent Pittsburgh organizing principle, has, as of Dec. 2019, awarded $1.25 million to nonprofit organizations with budgets of less than $600,000.

Through its fiscal sponsor, Thomas Merton Center, Fight for Lifers operates with a budget of $268,947. 

To learn more about Fight for Lifers West, visit

Read about the Small and Mighty initiative