Deepening Efforts to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Inequities in Justice System

January 19, 2022

The Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) is deepening its efforts to create new models for how cities and counties can eliminate racial and ethnic inequities in their local criminal justice system. A cohort of four counties and cities already participating in the SJC will join with local community partners to focus on racial and ethnic equity in the criminal justice system by centering lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people, and other people of color, and authentically engaging the community. The four projects will receive a total of $2 million in funding.

In each selected community, the city or county and its community partner will function as co-leads of the project and will receive resources to address national and local drivers of racial inequities, as well as training and technical assistance focused on racial equity and authentic community engagement, peer-to-peer support from other cohort members, and qualitative and quantitative data and analytic support.

These four cities and counties and community partners, named the Racial Equity Cohort, will receive funding:

  • Cook County (IL): Office of the Chief Judge/Justice Advisory Council and Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism;

  • New Orleans (LA): Office of Criminal Justice Coordination and Total Community Action, Inc.;

  • Philadelphia (PA): Center for Carceral Communities at the University of Pennsylvania, the District Attorney’s Office, Why Not Prosper, and the City of Philadelphia; and

  • Pima County (AZ): Office of Justice Services and the YWCA of Southern Arizona.

The creation of the Racial Equity Cohort is part of the MacArthur Foundation’s commitment to centering racial equity and the voices of people most impacted by the justice system. The new funding and support announced today is part of this commitment to learning about and investing in more intentional and effective strategies to eliminate institutional and systemic racism within the justice system. The Foundation also acknowledges that the efforts and focus of this cohort are only part of what must be a multifaceted and multi-system approach to achieving true racial equity and justice.

“While the Safety and Justice Challenge has been successful in reducing local jail populations, it has also taught us that this alone will not eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” said Laurie Garduque, the MacArthur Foundation’s Director of Criminal Justice. “By pairing the leadership of people most impacted by mass incarceration with the expertise of government partners, we hope this cohort of jurisdictions will challenge systemic racism in our justice systems and create policies and practices to sustain long-term change.”

Several of the nation’s leading criminal justice and policy research organizations will also provide technical assistance and counsel to the SJC Racial Equality Cohort, including Center for Court Innovation, Haywood Burns Institute, Nexus Community Partners, Everyday Democracy, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Race Forward, and CUNY Institute for State & Local Governance. JustLeadershipUSA, National Legal Aid & Defenders Association, and PRA, Inc. are also supporting the Racial Equity Cohort as steering committee members.