City Awarded Additional $4 Million by MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge

New Funding Will Help Advance Reform Strategies to Safely Reduce Philadelphia’s Jail Population and Reduce Racial Disparities

(Philadelphia) — The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced a $4 million grant to Philadelphia to continue advancing local reform efforts to safely reduce Philadelphia’s jail population and reduce racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in the criminal justice system.

The grant — part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $148 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails — brings the Foundation’s total investment in Philadelphia to $7.65 million to date.

The Safety and Justice Challenge is supporting local leaders in Philadelphia and across the country determined to tackle one of the greatest drivers of mass incarceration in America – the misuse and overuse of jails. Philadelphia was first selected to join the collaborative Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2015. The criminal justice partners have since used the resources and funding provided by the Challenge to implement bold reforms, including efforts to reduce pretrial incarceration, improve case processing times, decrease violations of probation, and reduce racial and ethnic disparities.

“The initial MacArthur Foundation grant was instrumental in allowing Philadelphia to push forward with reforms that have already made a difference, evidenced by a 36 percent decline in our jail population,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.  “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. More than anything, the new award will make Philadelphia a leading national example of criminal justice reform and will move us closer to the goal of a truly safe and just Philadelphia for decades to come.”

The MacArthur Foundation awarded Philadelphia’s criminal justice partners $3.5 million in 2016 to implement its first plan (following a smaller, planning phase grant in 2015). In the initial plan, Philadelphia set forth the goal of safely reducing the jail population by 34 percent over three years, while reducing racial, ethnic, and economic disparities across the criminal justice system.

Two years later, Philadelphia has not only met its original goal, but exceeded it an entire year ahead of schedule. Through the reform effort, Philadelphia has implemented 19 new initiatives including an Early Bail Review Program, a Police-Assisted Diversion pilot, and a Detainer Alternative Program. Since 2015, Philadelphia has reduced its local jail population by 36 percent and depopulated the House of Correction, one of the City’s oldest and largest jail facilities. Despite the reduction in the size of the jail population and significant efforts to implement bias training, enhance data collection, and increase diversions at the point of arrest, the City continues to see rates of racial and ethnic disparities in the jail population similar to those from 2015.

Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial District, said: “Even as we continue our combined efforts, the work of Philadelphia’s justice partners via the Challenge grant has already led to a system that is fairer and safer, to the benefit of everyone in our city. We’re proud of the work we’ve done, and this newest round of funding is indicative of a shared commitment to proactive criminal justice reform.”

Philadelphia is one of 13 jurisdictions selected today for additional funding based on progress of work to date and a clear plan for additional reforms. The new proposal aims to safely reduce its jail population by 50 percent over five years, from a baseline population of 8,082 on July 30, 2015. The City’s criminal justice partners will also redouble efforts to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic disparities across the criminal justice system through focused policy and practice changes and establish a measurable benchmark for success over the next two years.

“For the last three years, Philadelphia has built an unprecedented record of criminal justice reform, and today’s announcement from the MacArthur Foundation is one more indication that we are on the right track to become the most reform-focused, fair, and just city in the United States,” said Larry Krasner, Philadelphia District Attorney. “Congratulations to all of the partners who have worked so hard on this grant, and we in the District Attorney’s Office are excited to keep working to improve our criminal justice system.”

Key strategies to achieve these goals and create a safer, more effective system include:

  • Reducing racial and ethnic disparities across the criminal justice system;
  • Fostering meaningful community engagement;
  • Reducing the number of people incarcerated pretrial;
  • Creating efficiencies in case processing that reduce length of stay;
  • Reducing the number of people held in jail on a probation detainer;
  • Reducing the number of people in jail with mental illness; and
  • Increasing cross-system data capacity.

“We’re grateful for the MacArthur Foundation’s continued support of criminal justice reform in our city,” said Keir Bradford-Grey, chief of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “Criminal justice reform is the civil rights movement of our time, and this award will help us to address the racial disparities that plague our system. Notably, the award also supports our work to empower communities – a largely untapped resource – to help safely and sustainably end our overreliance on incarceration. We look forward to expanding our work with community partners taking the lead from those directly impacted by the justice system.”

Police Commissioner Richard Ross said, “We are both proud of and excited about the progress of the many MacArthur Foundation-related initiatives. These incremental successes illustrate the benefits of truly collaborative criminal justice reform. We look forward to the continued growth of the affiliated projects, as well as the further strengthening of our existing partnerships.”

Three years after its public launch, the Safety and Justice Challenge Network has grown into a collaborative of 52 counties, cities, and states modeling and inspiring reforms to create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country.

“There is growing demand for criminal justice reform across the country, and local jurisdictions are leading the way,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Justice Reform. “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. 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.”

Several of the nation’s leading criminal justice organizations will continue to provide technical assistance and counsel to Philadelphia’s criminal justice partners, and the other jurisdictions involved in the Challenge: the Center for Court Innovation, the Institute for State and Local Governance at the City University of New York, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, the Pretrial Justice Institute, the Vera Institute of Justice, Policy Research, Inc., and the W. Haywood Burns Institute.

More information about the work underway in Philadelphia can be found on as well as on


About the MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at


For the City of Philadelphia: Mike Dunn,, 215-686-6210

For District Attorney Larry Krasner: Ben Waxman,, 215-686-8711

For the First Judicial District: Gabriel Roberts,, 215.686.2893

For the Defender Association of Philadelphia: Mandy Nace,, 267-765-6319