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  • Pima County awarded additional $500,000 by MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge

    Feb 09, 2021 | Read More News
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    Pima County will receive $500,000 over the next two years in a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to continue building on efforts in collaboration with local leaders and the community to rethink the local criminal justice system, safely reduce the County’s jail population and eliminate racial inequities.

    The third round of funding brings the Foundation’s total investment in Pima County to $3.8 million to date and is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $246 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and advance racial equity in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

    The Safety and Justice Challenge is supporting local leaders, individuals directly and most impacted by the justice system, and the broader community in Pima County and across the country who are determined to address one of the greatest drivers of over-incarceration in America – the misuse and overuse of jails.
    Pima County Adult Detention Center
    Pima County was first selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2015 and has since used the resources and funding provided by the initiative to implement evidence-based solutions.

    These reforms include Warrant Resolution Courts on nights and weekends; pre-trial screenings; an automated call, text and email court-date reminder system; creation of a multi-disciplinary criminal justice jail population review committee and probation jail reduction committee, creation of a “data team” focusing specifically on criminal justice issues; enhanced case processing; increased community engagement, including listening sessions with regional tribal nations; and improved job training and workforce development for inmates.

    Pima County is one of 15 jurisdictions selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date. This new round of funding will provide Pima County and partners with continued support and expert technical assistance to strengthen and expand strategies that address the main drivers, and resulting racial inequities, of local jail incarceration.

    Pima County met its previous goal of reducing the average daily jail population from a capacity of 2,377 to an average daily population of 1,574 by 2021.

    Building on positive trends before the COVID-19 pandemic, the population of the Pima County Adult Detention Center (PCADC) dropped to a low of 1,303 in May and was at about 1,500 at the end of the December. The County’s post-COVID target in the next two years is to reduce the average daily population by another 5 percent of the previous goal, bringing the new ceiling to 1,495.

    The Jail Population Review (JPR) committee, a Safety and Justice Challenge strategy, reduced jail population in Pima County prior to, and during, the pandemic. Since spring 2019, representatives of prosecution, defense and other justice system partner agencies meet weekly with community treatment providers and representatives to review charges, criminal history, and socio-economic status of PCADC detainees who may be eligible for release without significant risk to public safety. The group has reduced jail populations while strengthening justice system partnerships.

    The misdemeanor jail population decreased by 63 percent from 166 in September 2019 to 60 in March 2020.

    “We’re grateful for our ongoing partnerships an d the continuing support from the Safety and Justice Challenge,” said Wendy Petersen, Pima County Assistant County Administrator for Justice and Law Enforcement.

    “We all share the goal of safely reducing Pima County’s jail population through meaningful rehabilitation and alternatives to incarceration. This helps both the individual and impact the entire community by making them productive members while easing the strain on public resources.”

    More than five years after its public launch, the Safety and Justice Challenge has grown into a collaborative of 51 jurisdictions in 32 states modeling and inspiring reforms to create more fair, just, and equitable local justice systems across the country.

    “Now more than ever, we must confront the devastating impacts of mass incarceration by a system that over-polices and over-incarcerates Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Criminal Justice.

    “Over the past five years, the Safety and Justice Challenge has safely reduced the ineffective and harmful use of jails, while learning that jail population reduction alone does not undo the racial inequities perpetuated by an unjust system and our nation’s history of systemic racism. We are committed to supporting cities and counties as they reimagine a definition of safety that is inclusive of all communities and makes meaningful progress towards our goal of ending racial and ethnic disparities in jails.”

    Several of the nation's leading criminal justice organizations will continue to provide technical assistance and counsel to Pima County and the other jurisdictions involved in the Safety and Justice Challenge. These include the Center for Court Innovation, Everyday Democracy, Nexus Community Partners, the Institute for State and Local Governance at the City University of New York, JFA Institute, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, the Pretrial Justice Institute, Policy Research, Inc., the Vera Institute of Justice, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, Urban Institute, and Bennett Midland.

    “I am thrilled that the John D. and Catharine T. MacArthur Foundation has decided to continue to support Pima County’s efforts to reform our local criminal justice system,” said Dr. Matt Heinz, the District 2 Pima County Supervisor. “Their support is providing crucial assistance to safely reduce our jail population, creating a more just and equitable community.”