County Awarded Grant to Sustain Local Justice System Solutions

Rendering of the CJS building

Mecklenburg County Criminal Justice Services was awarded an additional $228,000 in a capstone grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recognizing seven years of progress toward safely reducing the local jail population while addressing inequities in the justice system.

The grant marks a total of $3.87 million invested in Mecklenburg County by MacArthur as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $381.5 million national initiative to reduce the misuse and over-use of jail and eliminate racial inequity in local criminal justice systems.

“We are honored to have received this support from the MacArthur Foundation to advance our work through data-driven process changes as well as elevating our community engagement to ensure all voices are heard,” said Sonya L. Harper, Mecklenburg County Criminal Justice Services director. “I am proud of the County’s work and the MacArthur support has transformed our data abilities so all partners can use the information to improve our system.”

Looking to the future, Mecklenburg County Criminal Justice Services will maintain key practices to carry forward the successes achieved during the Safety and Justice Challenge. The progress so far shows a significant culture change in data-driven collaboration, one that can revolutionize local justice system processes.

Community collaborations and input will lead the final year of work with the grant by the Community Engagement Task Group and the development of the Youth Leadership Board. “We want to uplift the often-silenced voices of the next generation,” shared Harper.

More than eight years since its launch, the Safety and Justice Challenge has grown into a collaborative network of 80 jurisdictions across 34 states developing and modeling reforms to create more fair, just, and equitable local justice systems across the country.

“Communities participating in the Safety and Justice Challenge have generated meaningful changes in their local justice systems,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur Foundation’s director of Criminal Justice. “They were ambitious in setting their goals, and I am filled with a sense of hope when I look back on the Safety and Justice Challenge and the impact we have seen. We are proud of SJC grantee partners and their accomplishments, especially their resilience in response to the pandemic. This initiative was designed to be a foundational starting point for long-term criminal justice reform, and it is heartening to see its legacy unfolding in real time.”