Eight Counties Get More MacArthur Aid for Jail Reform

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Eight counties are getting $11.3 million more for jail reforms from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge as part of a $100 million national initiative. Places including Philadelphia, Lucas County, Oh., Charleston County, S.C., that already are receiving aid have reported declines in their average daily jail populations under the project. By 2019, jurisdictions getting funding aim to reduce their local jail populations by 18 to 30 percent.

Among projects getting new funds: Ada County, Id., is expanding alternatives to incarceration for people with mental health or substance abuse issues; Cook County, Il., using “police deflection” tactics and community outreach efforts in highly incarcerated neighborhoods; Los Angeles County is expanding alternatives to jail for people before trials, by developing a tool to release low-risk defendants and expanding diversion to substance abuse and mental health programs; Mecklenburg County, N.C., is making it easier to release misdemeanor defendants on bail and beginning to make bail decisions based on risk and not the ability to pay; Multnomah County, Or., is putting in place a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program to avoid locking up people with mental health and substance abuse issues; Palm Beach County, Fl., will use text message reminders to reduce arrests for failures to appear in court; Pennington County, S.D., is improving the justice system’s relationship with tribal communities and expanding pretrial diversion, and Shelby County, Tn., is expanding a pretrial services behavioral health unit and validating a risk assessment tool to play a role in bail decisions.

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