Finding Solutions

The Safety and Justice Challenge provides support to local communities that are ready to tackle one of the greatest drivers of over-incarceration in America—the misuse and overuse of jails. This Network of cities, counties, and states is proving it is possible to rethink local justice systems from the ground up, with forward-looking, smart solutions that are data-driven, equity-focused, and community-informed, and that safely reduce jail populations, eliminate ineffective and unfair practices, and reduce racial disparities.

Participants in the Safety and Justice Challenge commit to identifying the drivers of over-incarceration and racial disparities within their communities; engaging a diverse set of community stakeholders to determine potential solutions; and building infrastructure to track data and measure performance.

The Safety and Justice Challenge Network is demonstrating a variety of effective ways to keep people out of jail who do not belong there, address racial disparities in the justice system, better reintegrate individuals into the community upon release, and ensure that they have the support to stay out of jail thereafter—creating models that make communities healthier, fairer, and safer.


Safety and Justice Challenge participants are having success and learning lessons with a wide range of tactics, strategies, and initiatives.

Quartery ADP for (2016-2024)

20.3% from baseline

Promising Approaches

Lessons Learned

The Safety and Justice Challenge has shown that we can reduce jail usage safely. But what about racial justice?

Reducing jail populations may benefit many people of color, but it does not make stark racial and ethnic disparities in jail usage go away—that is one lesson learned during the Safety and Justice Challenge initiative’s first three years.

We are intensifying our pursuit of the shared goal of racial equity across the Network. We are increasing our direct investments, diversifying our advisory structures, expanding the kinds of expertise we tap, and providing more practical support and scaffolding to jurisdictions committed to taking bold action in response to centuries of institutional and systemic racism. Going forward, we will be supporting jurisdictions in surfacing practical remedies to racial injustice, developing and implementing holistic approaches to understanding, addressing, and driving down disparities in their local systems, and sharing what they learn in the process with the Network and the field as a whole.

Combined jail population reduction in the first three years of the Safety and Justice Challenge. [Based on case-level data available from 14 jurisdictions in the first SJC cohort, 2016–2019. Interim Progress Report]
Network-wide jail population reduction in response to COVID-19 pandemic. [Based on aggregate jail data available from 26 jurisdictions receiving implementation funding, measured from February through October 2020. COVID Report]
Network-wide jail population reduction since pre-Safety and Justice Challenge baseline. [Based on aggregate jail data available from 26 jurisdictions receiving implementation funding, as of Jan, 2021. Baselines vary by jurisdiction.]