$8.1 Million In Safety And Justice Challenge Grants To Advance Local Justice System Reform

February 5, 2020

New funding—part of $217M investment in 51 U.S. cities and counties—will support initiatives aimed at safely reducing jail population and reducing racial and ethnic disparities

Chicago, IL, February 5, 2020 – Reflecting significant momentum for criminal justice reform in communities across the country, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced an additional $8.1 million in grants through its Safety and Justice Challenge, a national initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

The new funding is being awarded to five counties—Cook County (IL), Mecklenburg County (NC), Multnomah County (OR), Palm Beach County (FL), and Pennington County (SD)—that are already working to reduce over-incarceration and address racial and ethnic disparities in local criminal justice systems. To date, MacArthur has awarded more than $217 million through the Safety and Justice Challenge.

Challenge sites across the country are seeing the impact of reforms designed to create fairer, more just, and more effective justice systems that protect public safety. For example, since joining the initiative, Philadelphia County, New Orleans, St. Louis County, Cook County, Lucas County, and New York City have all reduced their jail populations by more than 25 percent. The five sites receiving additional funding today have set ambitious goals to similarly reduce their jail populations in the coming years.

The five sites receiving additional support and funding are:

  • Cook County, IL – $2.5 million
  • Mecklenburg County, NC – $1 million
  • Multnomah County, OR – $2 million
  • Palm Beach County, FL – $1.4 million
  • Pennington County, SD – $1.2 million

Five years after its launch, MacArthur’s Safety and Justice Challenge Network has grown into a collaborative of 51 jurisdictions across 32 states modeling and inspiring reform. It supports local leaders who are addressing a fundamental driver of over-incarceration in America—the misuse and overuse of jails. Jurisdictions participating in the Safety and Justice Challenge are reforming local justice systems by identifying key drivers of incarceration and racial disparities locally, engaging diverse groups of stakeholders and community members, and working to implement forward-looking solutions.

“Local jurisdictions are proving it is possible for cities and counties to rethink justice systems from the ground up, despite challenges and an ever-changing political environment,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Criminal Justice. “MacArthur remains committed to supporting jurisdictions as they set ambitious reform goals and pursue smart solutions that safely reduce jail populations, address disparities, and eliminate ineffective, inefficient, and unfair practices.”

Today’s award of additional funding will enable these five jurisdictions to build on their work to eliminate practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues. Their locally-driven strategies range from processing cases more efficiently to enhancing pretrial services and alternatives to incarceration for people experiencing mental illness, substance use issues, or homelessness.

“The Safety and Justice Challenge has been crucial in helping us make headway as we work to eliminate over-representation of Native Americans in our local justice system in Pennington County,” said Liz Hassett, Safety and Justice Challenge Grant Manager in Pennington County, SD. “This additional grant support will help us continue to engage and rebuild trust with local tribal communities as we work to create a fairer and more effective local justice system.”

The Safety and Justice Challenge brings together many of the nation’s leading criminal justice organizations to provide technical assistance and counsel to the jurisdictions: the Center for Court Innovation, Everyday Democracy, Nexus Community Partners, the Institute for State and Local Governance at the City University of New York, JFA Institute, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, the Pretrial Justice Institute, Policy Research, Inc., the Vera Institute of Justice, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, Urban Institute, and Bennett Midland.


About the MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the global 100&Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at www.macfound.org/criminaljustice.

Media Contact:

Maria Speiser (312) 516-1628