MacArthur Foundation Awards $25 Million in Grants for Justice System Reform

By Kenrya Rankin Apr 14, 2016

From Ferguson to Chicago to Newark, communities across the country are being called out for growing local justice systems planted in racist soil. Now, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation aims to help make over those systems.

Today (April 13), the foundation announced that it will support justice system reform to the tune of $25 million as part of a larger $75 million commitment to transforming how America uses jails. It is issuing 11 grants of $1.5 to $3.5 million to 11 jurisdictions, plus another nine grants of $150,000 each. The money is earmarked to address racial and ethnic disparities and reduce jail populations. Each grantee had to submit a proposal that outlined a project that is meant to not only function locally, but act as a model for other locales. The projects cover everything from implicit bias training for law enforcement to community-based substance abuse treatment programs to alternatives to incarceration, and each emphasizes community engagement and collaboration.

“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,” MacArthur president Julia Stasch said in a statement. “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.” 

The following jurisdictions will receive the top-tier grants:

  • Charleston County, SC
  • Harris County, TX
  • Lucas County, OH
  • Milwaukee County, WI
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York City, NY
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Pima County, AZ
  • Spokane County, WA
  • State of Connecticut
  • St. Louis County, MO


And these nine places won smaller awards, which include access to expert assistance through 2016:

  • Ada County, ID
  • Cook County, IL
  • Los Angeles County, CA
  • Mecklenburg County, NC
  • Mesa County, CO
  • Multnomah County, OR
  • Palm Beach County, FL
  • Pennington County, SD
  • Shelby County, TN