MacArthur Foundation Awards $25 Million to Support Justice Reform

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The MacArthur Foundation today announced, as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, it has awarded nearly $25 million in support for ambitious plans to create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country.

“Cities bear the brunt of a system that too often steals opportunity away from those who need a second chance… we need greater flexibility in sentencing and increased resources to support re-entry programs so that ex-offenders can successfully transition back into society.” – NLC CEO & Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony. (IakovKalinin/Getty Images)

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded 11 jurisdictions grants between $1.7M and $3.5M over two years to reduce their jail populations and address racial and ethnic disparities in their justice systems. These jurisdictions include Charleston County, South Carolina; Harris County, Texas; Lucas County, Ohio; Milwaukee County, Wisconsin; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York City; Philadelphia; Pima County, Arizona; Spokane County, Washington; the State of Connecticut; and St. Louis County, Missouri.

“Cities are on the front lines of a criminal justice system in desperate need of reform. Jail populations have more than tripled since the 1980s, and racial and ethnic disparities in the system remain unconscionably high,” said NLC CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony.

“Cities bear the brunt of a system that too often steals opportunity away from those who need a second chance. On the federal, state and local levels, we need greater flexibility in sentencing and increased resources to support re-entry programs so that ex-offenders can successfully transition back into society,” Anthony added. “We are proud to serve as the The MacArthur Foundation’s strategic ally in their commitment to city leadership for justice reform.”

Ambitious Goals and Next Steps for Cities

The three cities have adopted encouraging goals. For instance, New Orleans leaders plan to reduce the overall jail population by 27 percent through holistic reforms. Meanwhile, Philadelphia and New York will focus on reducing pre-trial detention populations, by creating bail systems that depend on verified risk-assessment tools rather than the ability to pay.

Broadening the impact of the Foundation’s investment, an additional nine jurisdictions will receive $150,000 grants to continue reform initiatives and to participate in a growing, collaborative network of cities, counties, and states driving local justice reform. These include Ada County, Idaho; Cook County, Illinois; Los Angeles County, California; Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; Mesa County, Colorado; Multnomah County, Oregon; Palm Beach County, Florida; Pennington County, South Dakota; and Shelby County, Tennessee.

As a strategy ally, NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families will host two Leadership Academies for teams of city officials and local partners to learn about and plan emerging strategies for cities to reduce the overuse of jails for young adults. Watch for a request for proposals to participate in these learning opportunities in coming weeks.

About the Author: Laura E. Furr is the program manager for justice reform and youth engagement in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Laura on Twitter at@laura_furr and be reached at furr@nlc.org.

Program Manager for Justice Reform and Youth Engagement
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