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Board of County Commissioners

Posted on: May 27, 2015

Lucas County Wins MacArthur Foundation Grant to Create Fairer, More Effective Local Justice System

Toledo, OH – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced that Lucas County is one of 20 jurisdictions selected to receive a $150,000 grant to create a fairer, more effective local justice system. The grant is a part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, the Foundation’s $75 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way jails are used in the criminal justice system. Lucas County will use the grant to address factors contributing to over-incarceration and develop effective alternatives throughout the criminal justice process.

Lucas County was chosen following a highly competitive selection process that drew applications from nearly 200 jurisdictions from 45 states. The Safety and Justice Challenge competition supports jurisdictions across the country seeking to create more just and effective local justice systems that improve public safety, save taxpayer 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.

“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. We hope their local efforts will model effective and safe alternatives to the incarceration status quo for the rest of the country.”

“We are committed to implementing meaningful, lasting criminal justice reform,” said Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada. “Lucas County is building on recent collaborative success in reducing jail over-incarceration by addressing the system as a whole, while enhancing public safety. We are honored to be selected to work with the MacArthur Foundation as we create a more fair, equitable, and effective justice system for our community. We are convinced that Lucas County can become a model justice system for the nation.”

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 over-incarceration begins. Jail populations have more than tripled since the 1980s, as have cumulative expenditures related to building and running them. 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. Further, low-income individuals and communities of color disproportionately experience the negative consequences of incarceration.

Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp added, “This is an exciting opportunity and we look forward to continued collaboration with all of our criminal justice stakeholders and community partners who are devoted to making our jail a safer, more efficiently run facility.”

Lucas County’s objective is to develop pre-booking alternatives that avoid over-incarceration through jail diversion programs, address behavioral health disorders, and enhance risk-based pretrial release policies. Judge Gene Zmuda, Presiding Judge of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, explained, “We are committed to examining the entire criminal justice system from pre-arrest to post-conviction here in Lucas County. Our goal is to create a unified system that ensures the best continuity of services available, at the lowest cost to the community. This will result in a more effective administration of justice utilizing evidence-based practices.”

Information about the selected jurisdictions, as well as news, research, and events related to the Safety and Justice Challenge, will be published on www.SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org.

About the MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, makes cities better places, and understand how technology affects children and society. More information about the Foundation’s work, including in the justice field, is available at www.macfound.org.

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