Norfolk County is one of 12 Counties and Cities to Receive Grants to Design, Test Innovative Criminal Justice Reforms
DEDHAM, MA – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently announced that Norfolk County, in partnership with Community Resources for Justice, is one of 12 additional jurisdictions joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, a national $148 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.
The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office and the other jurisdictions will develop and test innovative local justice reforms designed to safely drive down jail usage and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their local justice systems.
Through the Challenge’s Innovation Fund, the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office will partner with Community Resources for Justice (CRJ), a Boston-based nonprofit, and they will receive support and expert technical assistance in designing and implementing local reforms. Norfolk County’s initiatives will focus on developing and implementing an innovative pretrial diversion program that protects public safety while reducing the number of people held in jail while awaiting trial.
“We value our longstanding partnership with CRJ, and look forward to expanding it through this Safety and Justice Challenge to rethink how we use our jail beds, so that we can improve outcomes and public safety in Norfolk County” Norfolk County Sheriff Michael G. Bellotti said.
Norfolk County was chosen following a highly competitive selection process that drew applications from across the country.
“There is growing demand for criminal justice reform across the country, and local jurisdictions are leading the way,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Justice Reform. “MacArthur is increasing our investment in local just reform innovations because we are seeing promising results and an appetite for more reform as evidenced by the diversity and creativity of the solutions implemented and tested across the Network.”
Norfolk County and the other Innovation Fund jurisdictions will receive short-term support of $50,000 each, are eligible for future funding opportunities, and have access to the resources, peer learning opportunities, and expertise of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network. The Urban Institute, which is managing the Innovation Fund in partnership with the Foundation, will provide expert technical assistance to the jurisdictions as they implement their plans. Key learnings and resources emerging from the Innovation Fund will be shared with and beyond the justice reform field.
As in many jurisdictions, the Norfolk County Jail is seeing an increasing number of individuals held while awaiting trial, taxing resources without a demonstrated benefit of improving public safety. In the past five years, the jail’s daily population of individuals held pretrial has increased 31 percent and now accounts for more than half of all people held in the facility.
Criminal justice reform legislation that passed in the Massachusetts Legislature earlier this year allows courts and sheriffs to refer individuals to pretrial programs designed to increase the likelihood that they will appear for future court hearings and remain crime free while in the community. But there is a lack of available research-based pretrial programs in the commonwealth.
To address pretrial detention in the local justice system, the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, and CRJ will develop alternatives to pretrial detention, using research and data to craft tools for identifying defendants most likely to do well under community supervision and providing support and oversight to help ensure they stay out of trouble while awaiting trial. CRJ has more than 132 years of experience managing high-quality programs for people involved in the criminal justice system.
“Massachusetts has a better opportunity today than ever before to rethink the way we look at pretrial detention for individuals who haven’t been convicted of a crime,” CRJ President and CEO John Larivee said. “We know that defendants held while awaiting trial are more likely to be convicted and face longer sentences than those who are released on community supervision. That presents serious issues of fairness and equity that must be addressed, and this initiative gives us a chance to use data and research to do just that.”
The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office will continue to place an emphasis on community engagement and collaboration among local law enforcement, corrections officials, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and other stakeholders in this work to test, innovate, and drive reform.
The Innovation Fund jurisdictions expand the Challenge’s reach into new states and deepen its work across the country. They include:
• Baltimore City, MD
• Bernalillo County, NM
• Camden County, NJ
• Cumberland County, ME
• Franklin County, OH
• Gwinnett County, GA
• Hennepin County, MN
• City of Long Beach, CA
• Norfolk County, MA
• Sangamon County, IL
• City of St. Louis, MO
• Tulsa County, OK
Information about the selected jurisdictions, as well as news, research, and events related to the Safety and Justice Challenge, will be published on www.SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org.
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 over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at www.macfound.org/criminaljustice.
About the Urban Institute
The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.
About Community Resources for Justice
For 140 years, Community Resources for Justice has been improving public safety while helping some of our society’s most challenged individuals develop their full potential. CRJ continues to help men and women released from incarceration to successfully re-enter mainstream society; steer at-risk youth away from crime and towards productive lives; and offer adults with developmental disabilities the chance to flourish while living in the community. CRJ maintains a national-scale research and consulting practice, the Crime and Justice Institute, that accelerates system-level changes in corrections policy by using evidence-based practices. More information is available at www.crj.org.
Communications Manager, Community Resources for Justice
Public Information Officer, Norfolk Sheriff’s Office