PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia announced a second round of microgrants for organizations involved in criminal justice reform work across the City. The over $200,000 in microgrant funding is made possible through a partnership with the MacArthur Foundation and a $2.275 million grant awarded to the City as part of their Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) in February 2021. This grant follows previous grants of $3.5 million in 2016 and $4 million in 2018. The SJC is a $300 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and address racial and ethnic disparities in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

The City’s migrogrants are designed to align with the goals of the Safety and Justice Challenge. The SJC strives to reimagine local criminal justice strategies by investing in locally developed, equitable solutions, including diversion, bail reform, drug treatment, reentry programs, and mental health services. The goal of the SJC is to safely reduce the jail population by 58 percent in a span of seven years (2015-2022).

Philadelphia’s approach to the goals of the Safety and Justice Challenge, and to criminal justice system reform in general, includes seven main strategies, with 39 individual initiatives attributed to these strategies. These strategies include:

  • 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 racial and ethnic disparities across the criminal justice system.
  • Reducing the number of people in jail with mental illness.
  • Increasing cross-system data capacity.
  • Fostering meaningful community engagement.

With these goals and strategies in mind, the City of Philadelphia structured microgrant funding to meet these objectives. In this round of funding, the City plans to fund 15 organizations with microgrants of $15,000 each.

Funding is available for two types of grants: already existing programmatic initiatives related to reimagining the criminal justice system, as well as new programmatic innovations. In addition, there is an option for up to half of all grant funds to support organizational capacity building.

“The Community Advisory Committee invites all Philadelphia non-profit organizations whose missions align with the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge to submit an application,” said Brittany Weston, Chair of SJC Community Advisory Committee. “We are eager to get this funding to organizations doing grassroots work in our community because their work is essential to successfully reforming the Philadelphia criminal justice system.”

“By increasing funding for each organization, while also creating a focused pool of grantees, we are able to provide a more intentional approach to our relationship with grantees and their work,” said Erica Atwood, Senior Director of the Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice & Public Safety, the funding agency for the grants. “Our goal was to not just invest in the work of community partners in the criminal justice field, but also to invest in our partner organizations themselves. Too often we place the burden of the work on our community partners, without providing the support they need to actually do the work. With this round of grants, we hope to address that.”

“The City is grateful and proud to be a continued partner in the Safety and Justice Challenge,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, “We are grateful for the opportunity to address systemic and historic inconsistencies and harms in our legal and criminal justice systems, while also exploring new avenues forward. The funding and support from the MacArthur Foundation makes this possible.”

“The support of the MacArthur Foundation will help our city continue to empower residents whose lived experience with the criminal legal system should inform decision-makers who have power to ensure the system produces more just outcomes, does not compound harm, and improves community safety,” said District Attorney Larry Krasner. “For example, we need more community-based organizations to help us build up services to provide an effective alternative to pre-trial detention that will promote accountability and reduce the harms of unnecessary incarceration, such as job loss and separation from children and loved ones. I urge organizations doing community justice and safety work to apply for an SJC microgrant and be our partners in reform.”

“Our close relationships with our community partners has given us first hand insight into what true public safety innovation looks like,” said Keisha Hudson, Chief Defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “These groups best represent the people most directly impacted by the gun violence plaguing too many of our neighborhoods, and are in the best position to identify real solutions. I can think of no better use of our public safety resources.”

Community-based organizations are encouraged to apply for an SJC microgrant using the newly streamline application process. The application closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 1, 2022.

For more information and to submit an application for a MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge microgrant, email

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 advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the global 100&Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at