February 16, 2022

Multnomah County Awarded Additional $1.2M by MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge to grow and sustain progress transforming Local Justice System 

Multnomah County Awarded Additional $1.2M by MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge to grow and sustain progress transforming Local Justice System 

Funding Will Support Initiatives to Safely Reduce Multnomah County’s Jail Population and Advance Racial Equity 

Multnomah County, Oregon, February 16, 2022 – Multnomah County is the recipient of a $1.2M grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to build on and sustain progress in safely reducing Multnomah County’s jail population and eliminating racial inequities in collaboration with local leaders and community members. The grant marks a total of $5.625 million invested in Multnomah County to date as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge(link is external), a $300 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and eliminate racial inequity in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

The Safety and Justice Challenge is supporting local leaders, people most impacted by the justice system, and the broader community in Multnomah County to address one of the greatest drivers of over-incarceration in America – misuse and overuse of jails. Multnomah County was first selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2015 and has since used resources provided by the initiative to implement innovative, evidence-based strategies to transform Multnomah County’s justice system.

These strategies include increasing case processing efficiencies, launching a mental health specific docket, and the current endeavor which started in 2019: an overhaul of the pretrial justice system. Multnomah County’s pretrial system is decades old and requires significant changes to ensure up-to-date social science is used to determine which individuals can be safely released to the community and which should remain in jail. This complex project incorporates multiple perspectives, from defense attorneys to victims of crime.

Multnomah County will also launch a Justice Fellowship program, which aims to foster high-quality partnership between community members and criminal justice leadership with the goal of together creating policies to decrease racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal legal system. 

Other exciting results from Safety + Justice Challenge support include the launch of the District Attorney’s Prosecutorial Performance Indicators data dashboards(link is external); enhanced collaboration between leadership and system partners to ensure high-quality pretrial and arraignment processes; and rapid responses from all stakeholders through the COVID pandemic.

Today, Multnomah County was one of five jurisdictions selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date. This new round of funding will provide the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) and partners with continued support and expert technical assistance to strengthen and expand strategies that address the main drivers of pretrial incarceration and racial inequities in the local justice system.

“We are proud of the progress we have made in safely reducing Multnomah County’s jail population over the last six years," said Deborah Kafoury, Chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. "Our continued partnership with the MacArthur Foundation will help us sustain these changes and continue to advance our goal of eliminating unnecessary incarceration,”

Carl Macpherson, Executive Director of Metropolitan Public Defender (the largest public defense firm in Multnomah County) shared, “Partnering with our community is key to rethinking the criminal legal system in Multnomah County. The additional support from the Safety and Justice Challenge will help us continue to put the voices and experiences of people most impacted in the center of conversations around reform to ensure our work is reflective of the community’s needs.”

In partnership with Multnomah County judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, parole and probation officers, corrections professionals, law enforcement, victims services providers, community members and more, LPSCC has developed a comprehensive plan to complete the pretrial system improvements, which include: policy, practice, operations, information technology, communication strategies and engaging community members over the next two years to invest in a safer, more effective, and more equitable system. 

More than six years since its public launch, the Safety and Justice Challenge has grown into a collaborative network of 51 jurisdictions in 32 states modeling and inspiring reforms to create more fair, just, and equitable local justice systems across the country.

“The progress made by Safety and Justice Challenge cities and counties over the past six years is extraordinary. Across the country, communities have worked to address the drivers of incarceration, reduced their jail populations, and confronted systemic racism,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur Foundation’s Director of Criminal Justice. “We are committed to supporting these jurisdictions as they work to sustain their progress and pursue smart, data-driven strategies to safely reduce jail populations and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in jails.”

Several of the nation’s leading criminal justice organizations will continue to provide technical assistance and counsel to LPSCC, Multnomah County partners, and the other jurisdictions involved in the Safety and Justice Challenge. These include the Center for Court Innovation, Everyday Democracy, Nexus Community Partners, the Institute for State and Local Governance at the City University of New York, JFA Institute, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, the Pretrial Justice Institute, Policy Research, Inc., the Vera Institute of Justice, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, Urban Institute, Bennett Midland, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Race Forward, and Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

More information about the work underway in Multnomah County can be found on www.multco.us/lpscc, as well as on www.SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org(link is external).

###

About the MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the global 100&Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy, as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at www.macfound.org/criminaljustice(link is external).