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Philly’s new jail population reduction goal: 50 percent in 5 years

What the prison will hopefully look more like in the next few years. (Photo via Flickr user Geoff Stearns, used under a Creative Commons license) October 24, 2018 Category: FeaturedFundingShort
The MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge has picked Philadelphia as a recipient of its latest round of grants.

The new $4 million grant — the largest of this round — is a follow-up to a 2016 grant worth $3.5 million and will continue efforts to reduce the city’s jail population.

“The initial MacArthur Foundation grant was instrumental in allowing Philadelphia to push forward with reforms that have already made a difference, evidenced by a 36 percent decline in our jail population,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement. “This new award will allow us to expand the number of initiatives, enhance existing efforts, renew our focus on reducing racial and ethnic disparities, and ensure the permanence of this success.”

With this additional investment, the city’s new goal is to reduce its jail population by 50 percent as of 2020, starting from a baseline population of 8,082 on July 30, 2015. As of September, there were 5,154 people held in Philly jails.

The city also aims to reduce racial disparities in the jail system. The percentage of inmates of color has not changed in since mid-2015 — 88.2 percent compared to 87.5 percent in September. People of color make up about 55 percent of Philadelphia’s overall population.

Other goals include reducing the number of people incarcerated pretrial, held in jail on a probation detainer, in jail with mental illness and more.

In addition to these criminal justice reform efforts, the city plans to close the House of Correction, a 91-year-old jail based on State Road in the Northeast, by 2020, and in February, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced his office would no longer seek cash bail from those accused of low-level offenses. (The American Civil Liberties Union deemed the city’s overall bail practices “unconstitutional” at the top of this month.)

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