The City of Philadelphia announced that it is the recipient of a $2.275 million grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to continue building on efforts to rethink the local criminal justice system, safely reduce Philadelphia’s jail population, and eliminate racial inequities. The Safety and Justice Challenge is a $246 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and advance racial equity in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

Since the start of the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2015, the local jail population has gone down by 43 percent.

While Philadelphia has made great strides in reducing the local jail population over the past five years, people of color remain drastically over-incarcerated. Philadelphia’s new reform plan centers on addressing racial injustice as its primary goal. It contains a number of new initiatives, including greater investments in microgrants and community supports for people in the justice system, reforms to Philadelphia’s bail system, a community assessment on the drivers of racial disparities, and alternative responder teams for people who call 911 in behavioral health crises.  

How you can get involved

We are looking forward to continuing our efforts to reduce unnecessary detention. One successful strategy of the Safety and Justice Challenge was the creation of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC). The role of the CAC is to support and contribute to Philadelphia’s reform plan. Volunteer committee members work together with the criminal justice partners to reduce the size of the local jail population; reduce racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in the criminal justice system; and enhance community safety.

“The perspective of the community is needed now more than ever before, as Philadelphia moves to implement systemic changes to it’s criminal justice system. The CAC is ready to do its part to elevate the lived experiences of those most impacted by the criminal justice system, and we look forward to working with the justice partners to implement policies that will protect the most vulnerable while also redefining the meaning of community safety.” – Devren Washington, Chair of the Community Advisory Committee.

CAC members host public meetings and community events throughout the year in order to: 

  • Advise government agencies on what’s most important to people impacted by the criminal justice system directly.
  • Provide criminal justice partners with concrete ways to further the reform effort and actively respond to feedback.
  • Include diverse perspectives on criminal justice reform by drawing on community experience and knowledge.
  • Encourage transparency and accountability regarding reform efforts within criminal justice partner agencies.

Individuals interested in serving on the CAC can apply now through April 1, 2021.