Multnomah County Public Safety System Receives $2 Million Grant

The John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced a $2 million grant to Multnomah County to continue building on efforts to reform the local criminal justice system and safely reduce Multnomah County’s jail population. The grant is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a more than $100 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

Multnomah County was awarded $2 million by the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge to build progress toward eliminating unnecessary incarceration

The Safety and Justice Challenge is supporting initiatives in Multnomah County and across the country that are determined to tackle one of the greatest drivers of over-incarceration in America – the misuse and overuse of jails. The County was first selected to join the collaborative Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2015, after a highly competitive selection process that drew applications from nearly 200 jurisdictions in 45 states and territories. Today, Multnomah County is one of eight counties selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date. The counties join ten other Challenge jurisdictions already receiving deep investment from the Foundation to implement local reform, and 20 sites receiving support for a single innovative project or program. This new round of funding will provide Multnomah County and its Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) with additional support and expert technical assistance to implement strategies that address the main drivers of local jail incarceration, including unfair and ineffective practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Key strategies and initiatives to achieve this goal and create a safer, more effective system include:

A mental health alternative shelter program for justice-involved women, particularly women of color;  enhanced services for people with mental illness or substance abuse issues involved with the justice system, pre-arrest and pretrial diversion strategies, and improvements to case processing efficiency.

“I am pleased that many of the innovative programs that my office has started over that past 18 months have been recognized by the MacArthur Foundation as part of their award of this grant,” said District Attorney Rod Underhill.  “I am particularly enthusiastic about our work to reduce the racial and ethnic disparity among those arrested for Interfering With Public Transportation, and our work to emphasize treatment, rather than incarceration, for low-level drug offenders.”

“These strategies will touch all points of the system and are a result of a unique and highly collaborative public safety partnership in Multnomah County,” said Sheriff Mike Reese. “As with every decision made that impacts the public safety system, we’re committed to evaluating the data to help ensure that we’re making the right choices to hold offenders accountable and keep our community safe.”

Two years after its public launch, the Challenge Network has grown into a collaborative of 40 counties, cities, and states modeling and inspiring reforms to create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country. The jurisdictions involved with the Challenge are already yielding promising initial results toward reducing jail populations and expanding alternatives to incarceration, and by 2019, the cities, counties, and states supported by the Challenge aim to have reduced local jail populations by 18 to 30 percent.

“We are encouraged by the promise of the Network’s results to date, and the long-term benefits that reforms will yield for individuals, families, and communities,” said Laurie Garduque, Director for Justice Reform for the Foundation. “Leaders from these jurisdictions are proving that everyone benefits when local justice systems are made to be fairer, to responsibly steward taxpayer dollars, and to safely improve outcomes for families and communities. Given the promise of these efforts, other local leaders should take notice of the solutions being piloted by the cities, counties, and states supported by the Challenge and begin rethinking jails in their own jurisdictions.”