Tag Archives: macarthur foundation

Grant to help reduce Milwaukee County jail population, reform system

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded a $2 million grant to Milwaukee County to implement reforms aimed at reducing the jail population and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system.

Eleven jurisdictions in the United States are receiving foundation money and technical assistance over the next two years.

The Milwaukee County grant is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a national initiative to reduce over-incarceration.

“The way we misuse and over-use jails in this country takes an enormous toll on our social fabric and undermines the credibility of government action, with particularly dire consequences for communities of color,” Julia Stasch, MacArthur Foundation president, said in a news release. “The thoughtful plans and demonstrable political will give us confidence that these jurisdictions will show that change is possible in even the most intractable justice-related challenges in cities, counties, and states across the country.”

The foundation said the county will address the main drivers of its jail population — which include people with mental health and substance abuse, and others accused of non-violent misdemeanor offenses — with the goal of reducing the average daily jail population by 18 percent over two years.

The county plan focuses on expanding the book and release program for low-level non-violent misdemeanor offenses and diverting individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues to alternatives to jail that will help prevent them from cycling in and out of the system.

The county also will institute a new post-booking stabilization program for individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues that will remove them from jail within 48 hours and connect them with appropriate services.

Additionally, the county will provide additional resources and training for law enforcement.

“We are extremely grateful and honored to have received this award and opportunity from the MacArthur Foundation,” Chief Judge Maxine White said in a news release. “With their help and our efforts, we can better protect public safety by smart use of our jails and working with issues of mental illness and substance abuse in a more systematic and effective way. This opportunity allows Milwaukee County to continue as a leader in criminal justice reform.”

In the United States, jail populations have more than tripled since the 1980s, as have the cumulative costs of building and running them.

Nationwide misuse of jails most harshly impacts low-income communities and communities of color.

And today, one in three Americans believes his or her local justice system is unfair, according to a poll conducted by Zogby Analytics and supported by the Foundation.

On the Web

More information about the Safety and Justice Challenge is at www.safetyandjusticechallenge.org.

Comic ‘genius’ Bechdel among MacArthur fellows

Cartoonist Alison Bechdel is the recipient of a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship, the foundation — committed “to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world” — announced on Sept. 16.

She is among three members of the LGBT community to receive the prestigious award that is commonly referred to as the “genius grant.” Bechdel, 54, lives in Bolton, Vermont, and is the author of the long-running “Dykes to Watch Out For” comic strip, as well as graphic memoirs, including “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” and “Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama.”

Mary Bonauto, the civil rights lawyer and strategist at the forefront of the long campaign for marriage equality, also is a recipient.

Bonauto, 53, is the director of the civil rights project at the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in New England. She helped win marriage rights for same-sex couples in New England and advances marriage equality across the nation.

Playwright Samuel Hunter also received an award. The 33-year-old New York writer is the author of “A Bright New Boise,” “The Whale,” “The Few,” “Rest” and “A Great Wilderness.” The Whale” tells the story of Charlie a writing instructor driven to grief by a state of morbid obesity.”

The class of 2014 also includes:

• Danielle Bassett, a physicist at the University of Pennsylvania.

• Environmental engineer Tami Bond at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

• Jazz composer Steve Coleman of Pennsylvania.

• Legal scholar Sarah Deer of William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota.

• Social psychologist Jennifer L. Eberhardt at Stanford University.

• Computer scientist Craig Gentry of the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

• Poet Terrance Hayes of Pittsburgh.

• Housing advocate John Henneberger of Austin, Texas.

• Materials scientist Mark Hersam of Northwestern University.

• Historian Pamela O. Long of Washington, D.C.

• Public artist Rick Lowe of Houston.

• Mathematician Jacob Lurie of Harvard.

• Poet Khaled Mattawa of University of Michigan.

• Documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer.

• Labor organizer Ai-jen Poo.

• Criminal defense lawyer Jonathan Rapping.

• Historian Tara Zahra of University of Chicago.

• Mathematician Yitang Zhang of University of New Hampshire.