At today’s HCCJCC (Harris County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council) meeting, Harris County’s grant award was discussed. The County applied for and received one of 20 grant awards (from approximately 200 applicants across the nation) for the MacArthur Safety + Justice Challenge. The County was awarded $150,000 to create a plan to improve public safety while reducing the overuse of local jails. The goal in this “challenge” is to find ways to REDUCE jail population. The grant funds are used to study the problem and come up with a plan (within 6 months) for implementation. The 20 current award winners will compete to have their plan selected for another grant of up to $2 million to be used toward implementation.
The goals of the challenge related to receiving the grants are:
- Reduce the number of people coming INTO the local jail
- Reduce the amount of time people STAY in the local jail
- Reduce the ethnic disparity in the jail population.
As stated during the meeting, the MacArthur Foundation has identified a significant problem: crime rates across the nation have decreased significantly over the the past many years yet our local jail populations continue to rise disproportionately. The challenge looks at only local jail populations and not prisons. It was stated that across the nation 2/3 of those in local jails are “pending trial” so they have not been convicted of anything yet they are incarcerated. For Harris County, they quoted a 74% jail population of those “pending trial.” Thus, we are higher than the national average at pre-trial incarceration rates. The speaker noted that African American’s are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated pending trial, and the mentally ill are 4-6 times more likely to be incarcerated.
A complete study entitled “Incarceration’s Front Door: Misuse of Jails in America” can be viewed/downloaded here:
More information on the Challenge can be found here: