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Philadelphia’s participation in the Safety and Justice Challenge

Advancing racial equity and community safety while reducing the local jail population.


Philadelphia's participation in the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) seeks to advance racial equity in the criminal justice system through collaborative reforms that will safely reduce the local jail population by 58 percent in seven years (from 2015–2022).

Philadelphia’s reform plan includes seven main strategies, each of which includes multiple new initiatives (39 initiatives total):

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

Funding for the reform effort is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. On February 9, 2021, the Foundation announced a $2.275 million grant to the City of Philadelphia. This new grant follows previous grants for $3.5 million in 2016 and $4 million in 2018. The new award will provide continued fiscal support that is critical for Philadelphia's efforts to advance safety and racial equity while reducing the local jail population.

To learn more about the strategies for reform, see the reform plan details.

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Progress to date

Since the beginning of the Safety and Justice Challenge:

  • Philadelphia's criminal justice partners have rolled out 32 of the 39 reform initiatives.
  • The local jail population has gone down by 43 percent since 2015, although the rate of racial and ethnic disparities in the jail population has not changed.

The graph below shows the jail population declining over the course of the reform effort. On hover, you can see what the jail population was on the last day of each month. Dark blue points on the graph identify when initiatives launched.

To learn more, see Philadelphia's monthly jail population report.


First Judicial District of Pennsylvania

  • Municipal Court
  • Court of Common Pleas
  • Adult Probation and Parole Department
  • Pretrial Services Department
  • Research and Development

Defender Association of Philadelphia

City of Philadelphia

  • Managing Director’s Office
  • Department of Prisons
  • Police Department
  • Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities Services

Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office

Safety and Justice Challenge Community Advisory Committee