The ACSO gets $150,000 MacArthur Foundation grant

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office is one of 20 jurisdictions across the U.S. selected for the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge — a $75 million program to improve criminal justice on the local level.

That means the ACSO gets a $150,000 grant to continue our work to keep people out of jail who don’t need to be there — and to keep people who have been in jail from coming back.

Over 200 law enforcement agencies from across the U.S. applied for the Safety and Justice Challenge.

The 20 finalists range in size from large cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Houston to smaller localities like Ada County, Mesa County, CO, and Pennington County, SD, as well as the State of Connecticut.

The focus of the project is to reduce overcrowding in jails across the U.S. The MacArthur Foundation wants to help reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

That is a perfect fit with our philosophy here at the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, where we’ve been working for years to keep people who shouldn’t be in jail from getting there if possible.

Two particular areas of emphasis for the ACSO are the pre-trial release and misdemeanor probation programs, where we use data and science to figure out which people need to be kept in jail and which ones don’t — and how to keep the people who are out accountable while making them less likely to commit future crimes while they keep their jobs and support their families.

The ACSO vision lined up with the MacArthur Foundation’s program, which is how we got to be included in the first wave of finalists for the Safety and Justice Challenge.

“Nearly 200 diverse jurisdictions responded to our challenge, reflecting nationwide interest in reducing over-incarceration,” said Julia Stasch, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “Each of the sites selected has demonstrated the motivation, collaboration, and commitment needed to make real change in their local justice systems. The aim is that local efforts will model effective and safe alternatives to the incarceration status quo for the rest of the country.”

Next year, the MacArthur Foundation will select 10 of the 20 finalists to receive a second round of funding – between $500,000 and $2 million annually, depending on the size of the jurisdiction – to implement their plans for reform. The women and men here at the ACSO are thrilled to be part of the project and will work hard to be included in that second wave next year.

Major Ron Freeman and Capt. Steve Bartlett were in Washington D.C. Wednesday for the announcement of the 20 finalists. Expect to hear more from us in the coming weeks and months about our work with the Safety and Justice Challenge.

According to recent research from the Vera Institute of Justice, nearly 75 percent of the population of both sentenced offenders and pretrial detainees across the U.S. are in jail for nonviolent offenses such as traffic, property, drug, or public order violations. Further, low-income individuals and communities of color disproportionately experience the negative consequences of incarceration.

The learn more about the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, check out http://www.safetyandjusticechallenge.org/about-the-challenge/

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