As the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) is entering its second year of supporting efforts to change the way America thinks about and uses jails, a new nationwide poll indicates the country understands the negative impact of the overuse and inappropriate uses of jails on individuals, families, the community, and the nation. The poll, conducted by RTI International and Zogby Analytics indicates broad support for treatment and rehabilitation—particularly for people accused of non-violent offenses and for those with serious mental illness.
Many people confuse jails and prisons. While jails were originally intended to simply hold people serving short sentences or awaiting court proceedings, prisons are large industrial complexes designed for individuals, who are a risk to public safety, to serve lengthy sentences. Yet according to the RTI/Zogby poll, “[t]here are nearly 12 million local jail admissions every year—almost 20 times the number of prison admissions.” The costs for local jails are borne, by and large, by localities.
There are 40 jurisdictions participating in the SJC. JMI is pleased to be working in Ada County, Idaho; Pennington, South Dakota; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Harris County, Texas. Over the past years we have seen stakeholders engaging in meaningful collaboration to enhance community and police relations; identify and address areas of disproportionality; seek alternative sentencing that keep low-risk offenders contributing to their families and communities; more efficient case processing; and other innovative strategies.