The Safety and Justice Challenge Aims to Grow and Support Initiatives to Safely Reduce San Francisco’s Jail Population and Advance Racial Equity
San Francisco, CA – Today, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced that her office has been selected to receive an additional $1,200,000 grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to sustain its progress toward safely reducing San Francisco’s jail population and addressing racial inequities in collaboration with community members. The grant marks a total of $5,250,000 invested in San Francisco to date as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), a $323 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and eliminate racial inequities in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.
“Through the Safety and Justice Challenge, San Francisco is showing that criminal justice system partners can work collaboratively to effectively balance pursuing smart reforms while ensuring public safety and accountability is achieved,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “Continuing to meet these twin objectives is essential and reflects our communities’ values to deliver justice and make systematic improvements to the criminal justice system.”
In partnership with the Sheriff’s Department, Superior Court, the Department of Public Health, Public Defender’s Office, Adult Probation Department, San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project and the San Francisco Bar Association, the Safety and Justice Challenge is addressing one of the greatest drivers of over-incarceration in America – the misuse and overuse of jails. San Francisco was first selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2017 and has since used resources provided by the initiative to implement innovative, evidence-based strategies to transform San Francisco’s justice system. In addition to supporting local leaders and people most impacted by the justice system, there are five core strategies as part of this work including reducing racial disparities, sustaining a shared focus, improving case processing, increasing connections to health services, and use data to drive decision making.
Since being awarded the initial grant, the City and County of San Francisco has safely reduced the jail population by 33%, and as a result of these reductions, has been able to close the seismically unfit County Jail #4. The Safety and Justice Challenge partnership laid the foundation for this success and provided a space for community advocates and system partners to engage with the closure process.
San Francisco is one of 11 jurisdictions selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date. This new round of funding will provide San Francisco partners with continued support and expert technical assistance to sustain key strategies that address the main drivers of incarceration and racial inequities in the local justice system.
“I am proud to celebrate and reflect on the progress made by the Safety and Justice Challenge cities and counties over the past seven years. This initiative shows that communities can bridge their differences in pursuit of a more equitable and just response to people in conflict with the law,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur Foundation’s Director of Criminal Justice. “With innovative and evidence-based solutions now in place, the next phase of the initiative must look to sustain that progress moving forward. We look forward to supporting these jurisdictions as they continue to pursue smart, data-driven strategies to safely reduce jail populations and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in jails.”
The SJC investment serves as a demonstration project to show that targeted investments in structural change and community-driven solutions can result in decreased use of local jail. San Francisco partners aim to move from community engagement into deeper collaborative partnership with community members with lived experiences. SJC partners have advanced more authentic partnership through the fellowship model, which is a space for decision-makers to act on the expertise of people with lived experiences. More than seven years since its public launch, the Safety and Justice Challenge has grown into a collaborative network of 74 sites in 33 states modeling and inspiring reforms to create more fair, just and equitable local justice systems across the country.
About the MacArthur Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the global 100&Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at www.macfound.org/criminaljustice.