Blogs

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December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. So, we spoke to leaders working in the area involved with the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) about what needs to change, and where there has been progress. ( From left to right: Chris Huff, Supreet Minhas, Candace Coleman and Jalyn Radzminski). Chris Huff (he/him) is Diversion and Reentry Policy Analyst at Access Living —a center of service, advocacy, and social change for people with all kinds of disabilities, based in Chicago. In this role, Chris leads policy efforts centered on supporting people with disabilities impacted by the criminal justice system. ...
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Q: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? A: It means that we’re trying to squeeze too much into a single month. As with any designated month or week to celebrate a huge swath of history and the contributions of a broad range of people, the notion falls absurdly short. But the month-long bookmark does have its utility inasmuch as it focuses the limelight on the rising-majority population of the country, thereby surfacing updated information, demographic trends, and political forecasts that, in the hands of people who want to shape the future of the US, can be very helpful Q: 70 Million , LWC Studios’ podcast about criminal justice reform, was ...
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Many veterans experience substance use disorders, mental health conditions including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and trauma, including traumatic brain injuries, all of which can lead to involvement with the criminal legal system. Fifty-five percent of veterans incarcerated in 2011–2012 reported having a mental health disorder, with mental illness diagnosis twice as high in veterans as in non-veterans. Approximately 65% to 71% of justice-involved Veterans had a reported substance use disorder before arrest. In recognition of Veterans Day on November 11 th , we would like to highlight several relevant resources and opportunities. A focus ...
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The National Association of Counties, in partnership with the National Criminal Justice Association and with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, has released a toolkit for counties interested in addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal legal system through grantmaking. The toolkit outlines eight principles, developed by a working group of county stakeholders, state administering agency representatives, and community-led organization leaders, to help enhance equity in the criminal legal system. It features several communities participating in the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) that are undertaking initiatives such as grants ...
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New research by Justice System Partners supported by the MacArthur Foundation ’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) shows the positive impacts of police-led deflection strategies on jail reduction efforts. Overall, “deflection first, arrest rare” as a primary policy for eligible offenses helps reduce criminal legal system involvement and improve equity by connecting individuals to the services they need. It no longer makes access to treatment conditional or contingent on arrest. Download the report here. Deflection is different from diversion. Diversion programs make use of pending criminal charges as the mechanism to elicit treatment initiation ...
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As I step down from a Safety and Justice Challenge role I’ve served in since 2015, I’m proud of what we achieved together in Charleston, SC and hopeful for the future of justice reform. I am optimistic the progress can provide a path for other communities to sustainably improve their local systems while safely reducing the misuse and overuse of jails. As reported in our 2021 Annual Report , Charleston County’s local jail population was reduced 40 percent from our initial baseline in 2014 to 2021. Municipal and Magistrate charges booked into our jail were cut by 80 percent. The rate of local bookings among our adult population decreased by 67 percent. ...
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A new R Street Institute report supported by the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge explores the successful implementation of pre-arrest diversion strategies in three conservative communities. Such strategies respond to challenges facing law enforcement agencies across the country including staffing shortages, negative public perception, overpopulation in jails, increases in violent crime, and court backlogs. While criminal justice reform can be a politically charged term, we found that several conservative jurisdictions champion pre-arrest diversion as a way to support law enforcement and to remain fiscally disciplined. These jurisdictions ...
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Cities and counties participating in the MacArthur Foundation ’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) significantly reduced their jail populations over the past few years – both prior to and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that progress, racial and ethnic disparities in jails persist. You can read more about the data here. In January 2022, the Challenge deepened its commitment to learning and investing in more intentional and effective strategies to eliminate institutional and systemic racism within the justice system. It selected four jurisdictions to join a new Racial Equity Cohort based on proposals that explicitly focused on racial ...
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Members of the Safety and Justice Challenge learned during their annual convening in January 2022 about how Tulsa, Oklahoma has struggled to reckon with the legacy of its 1921 Race Massacre. The discussion showed how Tulsa’s history impacts its present. It also demonstrated the complexity any jurisdiction must face in navigating ongoing inequities as it seeks to lower its jail populations sustainably and fairly. Today in 1921 mobs of White residents of Tulsa killed as many as 300 Black people. City officials had deputized some of the mobs and given them weapons. The mobs burned and destroyed 35 square blocks of homes and businesses in the Greenwood District. ...
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There is great news for people looking to understand how jail populations are changing across the country: The Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) has a new tool enabling anyone to track progress of SJC site jails. The jail trends tool distills all the progress achieved across SJC sites since the Challenge began. Users can click through to different tabs to explore key trends across SJC sites and can drill down in each of these trends to view them on an individual site basis for a more nuanced local perspective. We are also planning a series of accompanying briefs over the coming months, which will be available here as they’re released. Each brief will ...
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Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd two years ago today on May 25, 2020. People protested racial injustice in the criminal justice system across the country and beyond, and as a result, some cities and counties pledged to make significant changes to law enforcement. But in recent conversations with people involved with the MacArthur Foundation ’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), many reflected on how not enough has changed in the last two years and how the landscape for criminal justice reforms is now becoming more challenging. And yet, they also pointed to areas of progress. Jose Bernal , an organizer with the Ella Baker ...
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Too often across county government there are siloes between efforts to reduce jail incarceration and efforts to house people. But a recent report by the Urban Institute funded by the Safety and Justice Challenge shows how cross-governmental collaboration can break down these siloes and address historic injustice which has contributed to the jail-homelessness cycle. The report is based on learnings from three private roundtables we held in 2020 with practitioners, people with lived experience of jail incarceration, and subject matter experts across housing, behavioral health, and criminal justice. The purpose of the roundtables was to understand how gaps and ...
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There is new hope in St. Louis County for people afraid to move on with their lives or engage with the criminal justice system because of unresolved warrants, municipal code violations, or having missed a court date. The center, which is part of a national effort to lower jail populations in jurisdictions across the country as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), aids in responding to concerns raised by the Department of Justice (DOJ) about racial injustice related to municipal court practices in its 2015 investigation into the Ferguson Police Department —which is located in the northern part of St. Louis County. The DOJ commissioned a report ...
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Members of the Safety and Justice Challenge grappled with questions about how mass incarceration is linked to Black history at a recent fireside chat during the annual convening of SJC network members. Bria L. Gillum , Senior Program Officer, Criminal Justice with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation hosted the conversation with Kelly Lytle Hernandez , a professor of History and African American Studies at University of California, Los Angeles. She is also a member of the SJC Advisory Council and a MacArthur Fellow. Bria asked Kelly how she uses her journey as a historian and professor to think about mass incarceration. Kelly began by acknowledging ...
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March is Women’s History Month, and the picture for women in America’s jails remains troubling. Focusing on women in jails is an important part of the work of the Safety and Justice Challenge as it seeks to reduce jail populations across the country. Here are just a few examples of the challenges women face in jail. We Lock Up More Women Than Any Other Country Only 4% of the world’s female population lives in the U.S., but the U.S. accounts for 30% of the world’s incarcerated women. Such an alarming disparity should prompt us to consider how our policies and practices are contributing to it. Nearly half of the 231,000 women and girls locked up in the ...
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It’s been two years since the United States began to shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As we continue in our mission to reduce jail populations across the United States, the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) asked some of our strategic allies to reflect on lessons learned from the pandemic. Systems Adapted to Release More People and Take on New Challenges Criminal justice systems across the country adapted to keep people safe. “They worked in partnership to reduce arrests and bookings, and they increased releases,” said Wendy Ware, vice president of the JFA Institute . Some jurisdictions made changes to their bail protocols. Others relied ...
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Recognizing that too many people spend too much time in jails across America when their deeper need is for behavioral health treatment, counties are deploying innovative programs to help address this problem. To better support community members living with a behavioral health condition such as mental illness and/or substance use disorders, many counties are developing and implementing integrated behavioral health continuums of care. Building an effective behavioral health care continuum targets the root causes of behavioral health emergencies by investing in comprehensive and accessible prevention, treatment, and real-time intervention. With almost one in ...
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Cities and counties participating in the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) significantly reduced their jail populations over the past few years – both prior to and following the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that progress, racial and ethnic disparities in jails persist. Today the SJC has selected four jurisdictions to join a new Racial Equity Cohort based on proposals that explicitly focus on racial and ethnic equity in the criminal justice system; center lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color; and emphasize the SJC Community Engagement Pillars of authenticity, accessibility and transparency, respect for diversity, and commitment ...
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Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but the commitment of the Safety and Justice Challenge to improving racial equity in the jail system runs year-round. With that in mind, here are a dozen blogs on racial justice written by members of the effort and featured over the last year. Exploring the Difference Between Racial Equality and Racial Equity. Christopher James with the Haywood Burns Institute defined the terms of the debate: “To start treating, say, the Black community ‘the same as everyone else’ at this point in history will not go far enough in terms of achieving true equality,” he wrote. The Catalyzing Impact of George Floyd’s Death on Criminal ...
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The last two years have been turbulent for all our partners in the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), particularly for the cities and counties that have committed to reducing their jail population and eliminating racial and ethnic inequities as part of the SJC Network. Communities participating in SJC range from the small (Missoula, MT) to the immense (Los Angeles, CA), and they vary demographically, politically, geographically, and in every other way you can imagine. But the COVID-19 pandemic touched all of them. It brought with it death and economic disruption, as it has everywhere. It also brought change and opportunity. By forcing local systems to adopt ...
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