Safety and Justice Challenge Innovation Fund

The Innovation Fund supports 20 jurisdictions in designing and testing innovative local justice reforms to safely decrease jail usage and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their local justice systems. Innovation Fund jurisdictions expand the membership of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network, a collaborative of counties, cities, and states modeling and inspiring reforms to create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country.

Local jails are meant to hold people serving short sentences and to detain those awaiting court proceedings who are identified as a danger to public safety or a flight risk. Since the 1980s, jail populations have more than tripled as America increasingly relies on local incarceration.

The United States has over 3,000 jails that hold 731,000 people each day. Nearly 12 million people are admitted to jail annually. Jails form a critical part of our nation's incarceration problem with troubling individual, financial, and social consequences.

Although most people booked into jail are released within a few days, being detained can place people on a slippery slope that leads to

  • job and housing loss,
  • more punitive sentences,
  • reduced economic viability,
  • future criminal behavior,
  • worsened health, and
  • weakened familial and social bonds.

These consequences become more severe for those entering jail already disadvantaged, whether because of mental illness, substance abuse, poverty, race, gender, or other factors.

About the Innovation Fund

To continue these innovative efforts nationwide, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has partnered with the Urban Institute to host the Innovation Fund to create space for 20 more jurisdictions to test bold and innovative ideas on how to safely reduce the jail population while maintaining or enhancing public safety.

The Innovation Fund jurisdictions expand the challenge’s reach into new states and deepen its work across the country. They include the following:

  • Adams County, Colorado
  • Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
  • City of Atlanta, Georgia
  • Broward County, Florida
  • Buncombe County, North Carolina
  • Campbell County, Tennessee
  • Clark County, Nevada
  • Dane County, Wisconsin
  • State of Delaware
  • Deschutes County, Oregon
  • Durham County, North Carolina
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana
  • Lake County, Illinois
  • Minnehaha County, South Dakota
  • Missoula County, Montana
  • Polk County, Iowa
  • City and County of San Francisco, California
  • Santa Clara County, California
  • Summit County, Ohio
  • Yakima County, Washington

The Innovation Fund awardees receive funding and expert technical assistance and participate in a peer-support network to bring the innovative ideas to life. The sites are diverse in their sizes, geography, and focus areas. Innovation Fund sites will join the Safety and Justice Challenge network and the effort to reform the criminal justice system, with a focus on addressing disproportionate impact on low-income people and communities of color. The Urban Institute will provide technical assistance to the sites and document and disseminate lessons learned from the Innovation Fund’s work.