SF District Attorney

San Francisco Awarded Additional Two Million Dollars by MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge to Rethink Local Justice System

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Rachel Marshall / (415) 416-4468 / Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org 

New Funding Will Help Support Initiatives Aimed at Reducing San Francisco’s Jail Population and Advancing Racial Equity

San Francisco– San Francisco is the recipient of a $2 million grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to continue building on efforts in collaboration with local leaders and the community to rethink the local criminal justice system, safely reduce San Francisco’s jail population, and eliminate racial inequities. The grant brings the Foundation’s total investment in San Francisco to $4 million to date, and is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $246 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and advance racial equity in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

The Safety and Justice Challenge is supporting local leaders, individuals directly and most impacted by the justice system, and the broader community in San Francisco and across the country who are determined to address one of the greatest drivers of over-incarceration in America – the misuse and overuse of jails. San Francisco was first selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2016 and has since used the resources and funding provided by the initiative to implement evidence-based solutions.  These solutions include early bail review; pre-arrest diversion; data-driven decision making; and improving connections to community based supports, such as behavioral health support.  As a result, the jail population in San Francisco has declined significantly—reaching a reduction of nearly 40% in 2020.

Today, San Francisco was one of 15 jurisdictions selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date. This new round of funding will provide the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and partners with continued support and expert technical assistance to strengthen and expand strategies that address the main drivers, and resulting racial inequities, of local jail incarceration.

“We are proud of the progress we have made together in safely reducing San Francisco’s jail population—particularly since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago,” said San Francisco District Attorney Boudin. “Our continued partnership with the MacArthur Foundation will advance our office’s goal of eliminating unnecessary incarceration, which is especially harmful during the pandemic.  Over-incarceration creates the danger of an outbreak in the jails and our broader communities—risking an epidemic within the pandemic.”

Building on San Francisco’s progress to date 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 the system operates.  The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and justice partners continue to develop strategies targeted at reducing racial disparities and inequities, including through developing community based connections.

San Francisco’s Safety and Justice Challenge initiative is a partnership between the Superior Court, the Sheriff’s Office, Public Health Department, Adult Probation Department, Public Defender’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, community representatives designated by the San Francisco Reentry Council and the Family Violence Council, and community stakeholders such as the San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project. The partnership operates with oversight from the San Francisco Sentencing Commission which is convened by the District Attorney’s Office. 

“The MacArthur grant has helped us map out the most efficient road to safely reduce the jail population while addressing racial disparities that have plagued our justice system,” said San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto.  “The grant supports the Sheriff’s Office in analyzing jail trends and data on several fronts and helps to better inform effective policy. We are grateful to the MacArthur Foundation for supporting our efforts and understanding the challenges we face as we work toward justice reform and equity for all.”

“This partnership has been critical to safely reducing the jail population,” said Dr. Lisa Pratt, the Medical Director of the San Francisco Jail Health Services. “Having systems in place to review complex cases and to create detailed reentry plans has resulted in appropriate alternatives to incarceration.  This is in turn has greatly reduced the risk of Covid’s spread to jail staff and to incarcerated people who are required to remain in jail.”

More than five years after its public launch, the Safety and Justice Challenge has grown into a collaborative of 51 jurisdictions in 32 states modeling and inspiring reforms to create more fair, just, and equitable local justice systems across the country.

 “We must confront the devastating impacts of mass incarceration by a system that over-polices and over-incarcerates Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Criminal Justice. “Over the past five years, the Safety and Justice Challenge has safely reduced the ineffective and harmful use of jails, while learning that jail population reduction alone does not undo the racial inequities perpetuated by an unjust system and our nation’s history of systemic racism. We are committed to supporting cities and counties as they reimagine a definition of safety that is inclusive of all communities and makes meaningful progress towards our goal of ending racial and ethnic disparities in jails.”                     

Several of the nation’s leading criminal justice organizations will continue to provide technical assistance and counsel to the District Attorney’s Office, San Francisco partners, and the other jurisdictions involved in the Safety and Justice Challenge. These include the Center for Court Innovation, Everyday Democracy, Nexus Community Partners, the Institute for State and Local Governance at the City University of New York, JFA Institute, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, the Pretrial Justice Institute, Policy Research, Inc., the Vera Institute of Justice, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, Urban Institute, and Bennett Midland.

More information about the work underway in San Francisco can be found on  www.SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org.


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 advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the global 100&Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at www.sfdistrictattorney.org or www.macfound.org/criminaljustice.