How Philadelphia will spend its $3.5 million MacArthur grant
The Kenney administration announced Wednesday that the city has won a $3.5 million MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge Grant, geared toward reducing Philadelphia’s incarcerated population by 34 percent over the next three years.
The fiscal support provided by the grant will bolster a six-point strategy. In addition to lowering the prison population, the city will also seek to reduce the racial, ethnic and economic disparities in the criminal justice system.
Due to the problem’s complexity, this plan requires more than pouring money into it. So the city has highlighted areas where key investments have potential of improving the conditions of the judicial system.
1. Reduce incarceration of pretrial defendants
- The First Judicial District will develop a special pretrial tool to perform objective risk-assessment of offenders.
- A series of alternatives to cash bail will be explored, to be allowed according to flight risk. This will mean increasing the release of people on their own recognizance when suitable.
- Together with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, an advocate program will be put in place to provide aid for people facing charges before release decisions are made.
- Non-violent pretrial offenders will be able to participate in an early bail program.
2. Boost efficiency in case processing
- A continuance review process will be put in place, reducing the overall processing time by 30%.
- The Early Resolution Program plans to offer expedited plea offers on felony cases
- Through the Defender Association of Philadelphia, more attorneys will be available to file early parole petitions.
3.New strategies for parole violation
- A new system will provide quicker plea offers to previous felony offenders convicted of a misdemeanor.
- An expansion of the Electronic Monitoring will further reduce the incarceration of non-violent offenders.
- Probation officers can refer low-risk offenders with substance abuse problems to treatment immediately instead of jail.
4. Reduce racial and ethnic disparities
- Officers will receive training to identify violations that can be subject to civil action instead of criminal.
- A training program will be put in place on implicit and explicit bias for all criminal justice partners.
- Racial disparity data will be regularly audited.
5. Addressing special populations
- People imprisoned for narcotics sales will have more access to job skills training and placement.
- Service for individuals with mental illness will be boosted.
6. Improve data capacity
- A research team will be put in place to boost efficiency in judicial data handling in the city.