MacArthur Foundation Awards $25 Million to Improve Justice Systems

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced twenty grants totaling nearly $25 million in support of efforts to create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country.

Awarded through the foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge, a national initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails, and ranging in amount from $1.5 million to $3.5 million, the two-year grants were awarded to eleven jurisdictions, including New York City, Philadelphia, and St. Louis County, working to reduce their jail populations and address racial and ethnic disparities in their justice systems. Many of the jurisdictions receiving grants will launch initiatives aimed at addressing the disproportionate consequences of local justice systems for people too poor to post bail or who struggle with mental health or substance abuse issues.

Plans and activities supported by the grants include alternatives to arrest and incarceration, implicit bias training for law enforcement and other system actors, and community-based treatment programs. Jurisdictions receiving grants also will place an emphasis on community engagement and collaboration with local law enforcement, corrections officials, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and other stakeholders in their efforts to drive reform.

An additional nine jurisdictions will receive grants of $150,000 and access to expert technical assistance to continue their reform work and engage with a network of cities, counties, and states driving justice reform in their respective regions.

"The way we misuse and over-use jails in this country takes an enormous toll on our social fabric and undermines the credibility of government action, with particularly dire consequences for communities of color," said MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch. "The thoughtful plans and demonstrable political will give us confidence that these jurisdictions will show that change is possible in even the most intractable justice-related challenges in cities, counties, and states across the country."