Eleven jail systems around the country -- including in Connecticut -- will receive $11 million in grants to help revamp operations to eventually reduce prison inmate populations throughout the state.
The grants from the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation seek to cut inmate populations by a third as part of a nationwide reform.
According to a press release from the MacArthur Foundation website, the eleven jurisdictions around the country will seek to modify the use of their facilities, while eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in the process.
The website says that the grants are part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, a national initiative to reduce inmate incarceration and "change the way America thinks about and uses jails."
According to the Safety and Justice Challenge website, the grants for Connecticut will be used as follows:
·The Collaborative Ongoing Review Team, a pretrial court processing pilot in New Haven, will increase the number of defendants who are diverted to a community based program instead of jail and reduce the length of stay by two weeks
· The Hartford Alternative to Arrest Project will provide screening and referrals to detention alternatives for an anticipated 800 individuals with mental health, substance abuse, and housing needs
·An expanded Jail Diversion Substance Abuse program will provide an additional 95 defendants with access to court-based diversion to detox and residential treatment to avoid pretrial detention
MacArthur Foundation President Julia Stasch condemned the nation’s current jail system, and said she hopes these grants will usher in an age of reform for incarceration around the country.
Stasch said in a press release:
The way we misuse and over-use jails in this country takes an enormous toll on our social fabric and undermines the credibility of government action, with particularly dire consequences for communities of color. The thoughtful plans and demonstrable political will give us confidence that these jurisdictions will show that change is possible in even the most intractable justice-related challenges in cities, counties, and states across the country.
The foundation will be distributing grants between $1.5 and $3.5 million over the course of two years and an additional nine jurisdictions will be granted $150,000 to continue their reform efforts in the hopes of receiving implementation support from the foundation in 2017.
Governor Dannel Malloy touted the state’s efforts to improve the criminal justice system in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
We are making strides to be leaders in criminal justice reforms – and this grant will support our efforts. For too long, we built modern jails instead of modern schools. We need to reverse the policies of the past, and we need to rethink our approach to criminal justice. It’s happening in red and blue states around the country, and we’re making it a reality here in Connecticut. I would like to thank the MacArthur Foundation for this important grant.
Last year, Connecticut received $150,000 in planning grants from the MacArthur Foundation. The money was used to collaborate with experts to develop an evidence-based reform strategy on the jail system in the state.
Connecticut will receive $2.5 million over the course of two years to implement the strategy.
Daniel Keith is an intern at WNPR.