Philadelphia is one of 20 jurisdictions across the country selected to receive a $150,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to create a fairer and more effective local justice system. The goal is to lower recidivism and reduce jail time for some inmates.
Philadelphia currently has a 60 percent recidivism rate, or rate of repeat criminal offenders, according to state statistics.
The grant is a part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, the foundation’s $75 million initiative to reduce incarceration rates by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. The Nutter administration will use the funding to enhance programs with the Philadelphia prison system that work to reduce jail time and recidivism.
In Pennsylvania, a recent study conducted by the state Department of Corrections showed more than half of those who return to prison within three years after release will do so within the first year of release.
“I am honored that the Philadelphia was chosen to receive this prestigious grant,” Nutter said. “During my administration we have sought to increase public safety by working with our partners like the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Criminal Justice Advisory Board to find alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders and reduce recidivism by increasing opportunities for returning citizens and keep truly dangerous, violent criminals off our streets.”
Philadelphia was chosen following a highly competitive selection process that drew applications from nearly 200 jurisdictions in 45 states, Nutter said. The competition supports municipalities across the country seeking to create more just and effective local justice systems that improve public safety, save money, and yield better outcomes. The 20 jurisdictions selected will work with expert consultants to develop a plan for local justice system improvement. In 2016, as many as 10 of these jurisdictions will receive a second round of funding, between $500,000 to $2 million annually, to implement their plans over two years.
Despite growing national attention to the large number of Americans confined in state and federal prisons, significantly less attention has been paid to local justice systems, where the criminal justice system primarily operates and where incarceration begins. Jail populations have more than tripled since the 1980s, as have cumulative expenditures related to building and running jail systems.
According to recent research from the Vera Institute of Justice, nearly 75 percent of the population of both sentenced offenders and pretrial detainees are in jail for nonviolent offenses such as traffic, property, drug or public order violations. Studies show low-income individuals and communities of color disproportionately experience the negative consequences of incarceration.
“This is an amazing opportunity for the city to implement data-driven practices which encourage prison population management and reform,” said Sheila Woods-Skipper, President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. “We have worked collaboratively for a number of years through CJAB to address these challenges and I look forward to continued partnership so that we may accomplish even more.”