Philadelphia received the coveted MacArthur grant – $3.5 million over three years for its beleaguered prisons system – making it the biggest recipient of any jurisdiction in the country, Mayor Jim Kenney announced Wednesday.
The city was one of 11 sites selected by the MacArthur Foundation for implementation of funding under its Safety and Justice Challenge. A total of 191 municipalities applied last year.
The city submitted an application in January, and officials learned Wednesday that Philadelphia was chosen to receive the funds, which will provide critical fiscal support for the city’s efforts in reducing overcrowded jails by 34 percent over the next three years.
“In addition, we, as a city, have committed over $2 million within the general fund to compliment grant funding,” said Kenney.
“This effort has been ongoing since January 2016, when the criminal justice partners made the decision to apply for a planning grant. It has been a collaborative and unified process since – one my administration has been enthusiastic to support.”
A full complement of city and law enforcement officials gathered at the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice Wednesday afternoon to tout the news.
“Whoever said government doesn’t work or that government is not collaborative is crazy because there’s clear evidence of that today,” said City Council President Darrell Clarke.
By city figures, as of April 7, the city’s jail population totaled 7,449.
The "vision" for criminal justice reform is expected to go into effect over the next three years. If it’s successful, it could serve as a national model.
Court of Common Pleas President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper said that Philadelphia will now focus on implementing a plan aimed at reducing the prison population, as well as reducing racial, ethnic and economic disparities, while improving the justice system’s data capacity to monitor its progress in reaching these goals.
“We will address the over-incarceration of pre-trial defendants by fundamentally changing the way arraignment decisions are made and the way pre-trial defendants are supervised in the community,” she said.
“Our aim is to reduce jail admissions and the reliance on cash bail.”
District Attorney Seth Williams called Wednesday’s announcement a "huge achievement and recognition for how well the criminal justice system agencies in Philadelphia work together."
“The money is appreciated, but our commitment to reducing the prison population by one-third and collaboration process is huge,” he added.
“It is all part of what I have been preaching to be ‘smart on crime’ – crime prevention, recidivism reduction, prison population reduction, all while saving the city money.”