PROJECTSafety and Justice Challenge Innovation Fund

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has partnered with the Urban Institute to host the Innovation Fund to create space for jurisdictions to test bold and innovative ideas on how to safely reduce the jail population while maintaining or enhancing public safety. 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 Innovation Fund awardees receive funding, expert technical assistance from the Urban Institute, and participate in a peer-support network to bring their innovative ideas to life.

The Problem

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.


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, CO

  • City of Atlanta, GA

  • Baltimore City, MD

  • Bernalillo County, NM

  • Broward County, FL

  • Camden County, NJ

  • Campbell County, TN

  • Cumberland County, ME

  • Clark County, NV

  • Dane County, WI

  • State of Delaware

  • Deschutes County, OR

  • Durham County, NC

  • Franklin County, OH 

  • Gwinnett County, GA

  • Hennepin County, MN

  • City of Long Beach, CA

  • Norfolk County, MA

  • Polk County, IA

  • Sangamon County, IL

  • Santa Clara County, CA

  • City of St. Louis, MO

  • Summit County, OH

  • Tulsa County, OK

  • Yakima County, WA

Case Studies

Research Areas Crime, justice, and safety
Policy Centers Justice Policy Center