MacArthur Foundation Awards $2.25 million Grant to St. Louis County, Courts, Department of Justice Services and UMSL to Support Reform Strategies to Safely Reduce Jail Population

St. Louis County – October 24, 2018  The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced a $2.25 million grant to St. Louis County and the University of Missouri-St. Louis to continue building on efforts to advance local criminal justice system reform and safely reduce the County’s jail population, bringing the Foundation’s total investment in Saint Louis County to $4.5 million to date. The grant is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $148 million national initiative to reduce over- incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

The Safety and Justice Challenge is supporting local leaders in St. Louis County and across the country determined to tackle one of the greatest drivers of over- incarceration in America – the misuse and overuse of jails. St. Louis County was first selected to join the collaborative Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2015 and has since used the resources and funding provided by the Challenge to implement bold reforms, including expanding the pretrial release program and developing an innovative model for addressing the needs of individuals who are returned to jail for a probation violation. As a result, the population of the jail has declined by 5.6 percent since 2015, and there has been significant progress in reducing racial disparities. The average  length of stay for African-Americans has fallen to 82 days from 113 days, a 28 percent reduction. For white individuals, the average length of stay has fallen 15 percent, to 69 days from 81 days.

As part of a new initiative, a Jail Population Review Team began meeting weekly this summer to streamline case processing and expedite releases. The Team is comprised of judges, county employees, law enforcement officers, public defenders, probation and parole officers, prosecutors, service providers, and community advocates. The thoughtful actions of the Jail Population Review Team have contributed to a 19 percent reduction in the number of individuals awaiting trial for a non-violent felony charge.

In addition, 1,400 local citizens have received housing and employment assistance and substance abuse and mental health treatment as part of the Challenge grant.

Today, St. Louis County was one of 13 jurisdictions selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date. This new round of funding will provide St. Louis County and its partners with additional support and continued expert technical assistance to strengthen and expand strategies that address the main drivers of local jail incarceration, with the goal of further reducing St. Louis County’s average daily jail population by 5-10 percent in two years.

“We are proud of the progress made to date in safely reducing the jail population and acting as a model for other counties across the country to show reform is possible,” County Executive Steve Stenger said. “Thank you to the Safety and Justice Challenge, along with our team at the Justice Service Center and partners like UMSL for their continued and tireless efforts to create real, measurable change. I look forward to continuing this great work.”

I am proud of the progress St. Louis County has made in safely reducing the jail population,” said Beth Huebner, professor of criminology and criminal justice at      UMSL and lead researcher on the grant. “St. Louis County has made tremendous reform in the past three years. The County has relied on evidence-based practices to address the needs of the citizens of St. Louis County while maintaining community safety. There is much progress yet to be made. I am confident that the leaders of St. Louis County will continue to work together on the reforms implemented over the past two years and will see a further reduction in the jail population and racial disparities in the system.”

In partnership with the St. Louis County Courts, Police Department, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Public Defenders Office, Missouri Probation and Parole, and local social services agencies, St. Louis County has developed a comprehensive plan for additional reform strategies over the next two years. Key strategies and initiatives to achieve this goal and create a safer, more effective system include:

  • Pretrial release strategies;
  • Improvements to case processing efficiency; and
  • Enhanced services for people with substance abuse issues involved with the justice system, particularly as the opioid crisis continues to grow in the

Three years after its public launch, the Challenge Network has grown into a collaborative of 52 counties, cities, and states modeling and inspiring reforms to create fairer, more effective local justice systems 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 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. While progress is not always easy, and there is no single solution or quick fix, these jurisdictions are proving it is possible to rethink local justice systems from the ground up with forward-looking, smart solutions.”

Judge Gloria Reno, Presiding Judge, commented “This additional funding from the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge will provides critical support for our mission of providing equal access to justice for all. In collaboration with our local and national partners in this important criminal justice initiative, we will continue to improve the lives of defendants, taxpayers and the community for years to come. “

Several of the nation’s leading criminal justice organizations will continue to provide technical assistance and counsel to St. Louis County, St. Louis County partners, and the other jurisdictions involved in the Challenge: the Center for Court Innovation, the Institute for State and Local Governance at the City University of New York, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, the Pretrial Justice Institute, the Vera Institute of Justice, Policy Research, Inc., and the W. Haywood Burns Institute.

More information about the work underway in St. Louis County can be found at




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