New Orleans Wins MacArthur Foundation Support To Reduce Local Jail Population

NEW ORLEANS – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced Wednesday that New Orleans is one of 20 jurisdictions selected to receive a $150,000 grant to create a fairer, more effective local justice system.

         The grant is a part of the Safety and Justice Challenge—the Foundation’s $75 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. New Orleans will use the support to continue its efforts to interrupt the cycle of incarceration by employing smart polices to minimize the use of local detention.

         New Orleans was chosen following a highly-competitive selection process that drew applications from nearly 200 jurisdictions from 45 states. The Safety and Justice Challenge competition supports jurisdictions across the country seeking to create more just and effective local justice systems that improve public safety, save taxpayer money, and yield better outcomes. With this award, New Orleans and 19 other jurisdictions will work with expert consultants to develop a plan for local justice system improvement. In 2016, as many as 10 of these jurisdictions will receive a second round of funding—between $500,000 to $2 million annually— to implement their plans over two years.

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         “Nearly 200 diverse jurisdictions responded to our challenge, reflecting nationwide interest in reducing over-incarceration,” said Julia Stasch, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “Each of the sites selected has demonstrated the motivation, collaboration, and commitment needed to make real change in their local justice systems. We hope their local efforts will model effective and safe alternatives to the incarceration status quo for the rest of the country.”

         “New Orleans is the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated country in the world,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “We have done major work since Katrina and in the last five years to reduce the local prison capacity from 7,500 to just over 1,800. But there is more work to be done. I have asked the leaders of the criminal justice system to work with me to make smart decisions about how we arrest, detain and prosecute. Now, with the McArthur Foundation’s help, we want to continue reducing the overuse of jails and uphold New Orleans’ reputation as a laboratory for innovation and change. We are proud of our collaboration with the McArthur Foundation and look forward to moving our criminal justice reform efforts forward.”

         “Since I became Sheriff in 2004, the average daily inmate population has been reduced from more than 6,000 inmates to less than 2,000 inmates today,” said Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman. “The governing philosophy of this Sheriff’s Office has been to implement innovative alternatives to incarceration such as our Fast-Track Program to release individuals arrested for minor offenses; our Day Reporting Center for probationers and parolees; and the Southeast Regional Re-Entry Program that reduces recidivism by providing life and job skills for returning citizens. With this MacArthur Foundation grant, the Sheriff’s Office looks forward to working with our partners on more innovative ways to make meaningful and lasting changes to our justice system. I’m pleased to lead the City of New Orleans’ delegation in accepting this support from the MacArthur Foundation.”

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         “The cycle of incarceration—starting with arrest—is at the root of some of society’s broader, more complex issues playing out right now across the country,” said Charles West, director of the Office of Criminal Justice Coordination. “The MacArthur Foundation’s support provides an opportunity to reduce the impact of detention on individuals and families with new practices that improve public safety and promote stronger, healthier communities.”

         “I am pleased that New Orleans was selected by the MacArthur Foundation to receive the first round of funding as part of their Safety and Justice Challenge," said Susan Guidry,  District A Councilmember and Chair of Criminal Justice Committee. "The Mayor, the City Council, and the Sheriff spoke with one unified voice in our application to the MacArthur Foundation, and it is gratifying to see that collaboration and cooperation pay off. I am grateful that the MacArthur Foundation recognized the hard work we as a City continue to put into reforming our criminal justice system."

         “New Orleans’ notoriety as the most incarcerated locale in the world is largely founded on inequitable and injurious policies," said Flozell Daniels, President, Foundation for Louisiana. "MacArthur's investment in New Orleans recognizes the city's growing capacity to engage community advocates and system leaders in making positive policy changes that ensure the criminal justice system works for all our people.”

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         Despite growing national attention to the large number of Americans confined in state and federal prisons, significantly less attention has been paid to local justice systems, where the criminal justice system primarily operates and where over-incarceration begins. Jail populations have more than tripled since the 1980s, as have cumulative expenditures related to building and running them. According to recent research from the Vera Institute of Justice, nearly 75 percent of the population of both sentenced offenders and pretrial detainees are in jail for nonviolent offenses such as traffic, property, drug, or public order violations. Further, low-income individuals and communities of color disproportionately experience the negative consequences of incarceration.

         In 2010, Orleans Parish had the largest jail population per capita in the U.S. according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This figure was more than four times the national average. Since then, there have been significant reductions: the local jail population is 5.2 per 1,000 and average daily population is consistently under 2,000 as of 2015. In addition, NOPD officers now use summonses when appropriate in place of arrests. However, OPP is still among the largest jails in the country per capita. The support of the MacArthur Foundation will allow the City to continue developing a comprehensive  jail management strategic plan— making fewer unnecessary arrests, strengthening a pre-trial services program, working with our criminal justice partners to reduce the time people are in jail awaiting trial and  implementing evidence-based practices that facilitate the transition from jail to the community.

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