MacArthur Foundation Commits $148 Million to Criminal Justice Reform

By Shani Saxon Oct 24, 2018

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is ramping up its commitment to criminal justice reform. The organization announced today (October 24) that it added an additional $22 million in grants to its Safety and Justice Challenge, a program that enlists municipalities to create tangible solutions for over-incarceration.

The company released a statement describing the Safety and Justice Challenge network as a “collaborative of 52 cities and counties, across 32 states, modeling and inspiring reform.” With the additional funding, MacArthur has awarded a total of $148 million to support its collaborators as they actively work to “create fairer, more effective justice systems that protect public safety.”

While America remains the world leader in its use of incarceration, the system disproportionately affects Black and Latinx people. The Sentencing Project reports that Blacks are “incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of Whites.” Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s director of justice reform, says local leaders are crucial to changing this.

“MacArthur is increasing our investment because we are seeing promising results and an appetite for more reform as evidenced by the diversity and creativity of the solutions implemented and tested across the network,” Garduque said in the statement. “While progress is not always easy, and there is no single solution or quick fix, these jurisdictions are proving it is possible to rethink local justice systems from the ground up with forward-looking, smart solutions.”

After three years of growing the network, there are now 13 sites where money and expertise are being funneled to implement these innovative solutions. And the committment is starting to pay off; per the statement, “since joining the initiative, Philadelphia has decreased its jail population by 36 percent and Cook County, Illinois by 26 percent.”

Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney is excited to see how the additional grant money can foster even greater progress in his city. “This new award will allow us to expand the number of initiatives, enhance existing efforts, renew our focus on reducing racial and ethnic disparities, and ensure the permanence of this success,” he said in the statement. “More than anything, the new award will make Philadelphia a leading national example of criminal justice reform that will move us closer to the goal of a truly safe and just Philadelphia for decades to come.”

Click here to see all of the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge sites.