The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the launch of a five-year, $75 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.
The investment will establish the Safety and Justice Challenge, an initiative designed to assist cities and counties across the country in their efforts to create fairer local justice systems that improve public safety, save taxpayer money, and lead to better social outcomes. By engaging law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, defenders, policy makers, researchers, advocates, and funders, the initiative aims to address the disproportionate impact of incarceration on low-income individuals and communities of color.
Central to that work will be a competition through which the foundation funds up to twenty jurisdictions to design and implement more effective justice systems. Four of the nation's leading criminal justice organizations — the Center for Court Innovation, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, and the Vera Institute of Justice — will provide technical assistance and counsel to the participating jurisdictions.
"For too long America has incarcerated too many people unnecessarily, spending too much money without improving public safety," said MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch. "Jails are where our nation's incarceration problem begins; there are nearly twelve million jail admissions every year, and jails too often serve as warehouses for those too poor to post bail, non-violent offenders, or people with mental illness. With this substantial, long-term commitment and investment, MacArthur hopes to support and demonstrate alternatives to incarceration as usual and to create demand and momentum for change across the country."