Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spokane selected for MacArthur Foundation grant to reduce jail populations

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2015 at 2:27 PM

Spokane County will receive a $150,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to create a plan aimed to reduce the jail population and create a fairer, more effective criminal justice system. The efforts of the 20-member Regional Law and Justice Council helped distinguish Spokane from the pool of more than 200 applications. 

"It's quite a get," says WSU criminal justice professor Jacqueline van Wormer, who was recently appointed acting Criminal Justice Administrator of the Law and Justice Council. "To have Spokane be in the top 20 of those 200 applications is exciting. It speaks a lot to the work we've been doing."

The grant is a part of a $75 million Safety and Justice Challenge by the MacArthur Foundation to reduce over incarceration in America. With help from federal reform agencies such as the Vera Institute, the Law and Justice Council will draw up a plan improve Spokane County Detention Center's risk assessment for offenders, evaluate diversionary programs and establish a more comprehensive criminal justice data system.

Van Wormer gives the example of an individual who continually commits low-level crimes and is constantly in and out of jail, costing the city and county money and resources, clogging up the courts and jail. An improved risk assessment and a data system that encompasses information from law enforcement, municipal, district and superior courts, the prosecutors' office, public defenders' office and the jails could prove invaluable to decreasing recidivism rates. 

In November, the Law and Justice Council will submit their plan to the MacArthur Foundation and compete to be one of the 10 jurisdictions to receive between $500,000-$2 million more annually to implement the ideas. 

Other areas Spokane will compete against for the annual funds include Cook County (Chicago), Harris County (Houston), Los Angeles County, St. Louis County, Ada County (Boise), Multnomah County (Portland), New Orleans, New York City, and the entire state of Connecticut.   

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About The Author

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.