20 Jails Receive MacArthur Grants to Reform Criminal Justice System

Photo by Doug Berry
City officials will use the $150,000 grants to figure out how they can decrease the number of inmates within their systems

Twenty jail systems across the country are receiving a financial incentive to drastically reduce the number of individuals behind bars.

The MacArthur Foundation announced today that it would be distributing $150,000 grants to 20 jails or counties in an attempt to eliminate unnecessary incarceration and ensure fairness within municipal court systems. 

"Despite growing national attention to the large number of Americans confined in state and federal prisons, significantly less attention has been paid to local detention and justice systems, where the criminal justice system primarily operates and functions," Colorado city officials, whose local jail will be receiving a grant, said in a statement. "Jail populations have more than tripled since the 1980s, as have cumulative expenditures related to the building and operation of jails."

Municipals judges, prosecutors, police departments and court officials are to use to the monies to design a plan to maximize the efficiency of local justice systems and figure out how they can refrain from jailing people because of extenuating circumstances, such as low-level offenders who cannot afford their bail.

Los Angeles, New York and Chicago are among the cities that will be receiving grants, as well as smaller counties such as St. Louis County—which includes the Ferguson jail that was condemned in the Department of Justice’s investigation. Next year, once the 20 cities have designed a plan of action, the MacArthur Foundation will select 10 to receive $500,000 to $2 million grants to implement their proposals. 

“Our bigger ambition than just reducing the population really goes to the fairness and equity of the system," MacArthur president Julia Stasch told the Associated Press. "We really believe that the hyper-incarceration in this country really starts there in local cities and counties."

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