Philadelphia’s participation in the Safety and Justice Challenge

Decreasing local jail populations and reducing racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in the criminal justice system.


Philadelphia's participation in the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) seeks to safely reduce the local jail population by 50 percent in five years (from 2015-2020). This major reform effort also aims to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in the criminal justice system.

Philadelphia’s reform plan includes seven main strategies, each of which includes multiple new initiatives (30 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 October 24, 2018, the Foundation announced a $4 million grant to Philadelphia. This new grant follows a 2016 MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge Grant for $3.5 million. It will provide continued fiscal support that is critical for Philadelphia's efforts to safely reduce the jail population and reduce racial and ethnic disparities.

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 partner agencies have rolled out 27 of the 30 reform initiatives.
  • The local jail population has gone down by 54 percent since 2015, although the rate of racial and ethnic disparities in the jail population has not changed.
  • Between 2015 and 2018, citywide violent crime and property crime counts (Part 1) have dropped by 3 percent.

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.

The criminal justice partners are committed to the goals of the SJC. They will continue working together on future reforms.


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