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February 10, 2021

New $2.2 million grant will help Philly continue criminal justice reforms

D.A. Larry Krasner also revealed details of the city's revamped early bail review program

Criminal Justice Grants

Philadelphia has been awarded a $2.275 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to continue its participation in the Safety and Justice Challenge, which aims to reduce prison populations across the United States through collaborative criminal justice reforms.

The MacArthur Foundation has awarded Philadelphia a $2.275 million grant to expand upon previous work addressing mass incarceration and racial inequities. 

Over the last five years, the MacArthur Foundation has invested $9.9 million into Philadelphia's criminal justice reform efforts. The funding is part of the foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge, a $245 million national initiative to change the way America uses its jails.

Since the initiative began in Philadelphia, the local prison population has decreased by 43%. The city has closed its House of Corrections and avoided the construction of a new prison. 

By 2022, the initiative aims to reduce the city's jail population by 58% from its 2015 level. With the new grant money, the city will target the following reform measures:

•Providing early bail review hearings to people held in jail on low amounts of bail
•Increasing early diversion opportunities through the Police-Assisted Diversion Program
•Improving connections to treatment and services for people on community supervision with a mental illness
•Increasing investments in community-driven reforms through a criminal justice microgrant fund.

"Building on Philadelphia's progress is especially critical as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustices against Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color reinforce the need to transform how systems operate," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "This continued financial support is critical to improving public safety and racial equity while reducing the local jail population."

On Tuesday, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner provided details about efforts to reduce pre-trial detentions by expanding the city's early bail review program. 

Starting March 1, all defendants whose bail is set at $250,000 or less will receive custody determination hearings before a judge within the first several days of their arrests. The previous bail limit was $100,000.

Defendants who had probation or parole detainers also were previously excluded from early bail review, but they will receive an early bail review hearing under the new program.

"The expansion of early bail review to more defendants within days of arrest will help ensure we are not needlessly incarcerating people who are not a danger to the public, as well as reducing harms associated with separating individuals from their families, vocations and communities," Krasner said.

As part of the MacArthur Foundation initiative, the city has established a Community Advisory Committee comprised of volunteers who work with criminal justice partners to address the goals of the initiative. Public meetings and community events are held throughout the year to advise government agencies, obtain community input and encourage transparency and accountability in reform efforts.

"The perspective of the community is needed now more than ever before, as Philadelphia moves to implement systemic changes to its criminal justice system," said Devren Washington, chair of the Community Advisory Committee. "The CAC is ready to do its part to elevate the lived experiences of those most impacted by the criminal justice system, and we look forward to working with the justice partners to implement policies that will protect the most vulnerable while also redefining the meaning of community safety."