Safety & Justice Challenge

In 2016, Milwaukee County was among 11 communities across the country chosen by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to participate in the Safety & Justice Challenge. The Safety & Justice Challenge (SJC) is a nationwide effort to change the way that we think about and use jails in the United States.

As an SJC Implementation Site, Milwaukee County received funding and technical assistance to introduce reforms aimed at reducing overreliance on jails while addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system.

To safely reduce its jail population, Milwaukee County is focusing on three areas:

  • Decrease length of stay for people charged with non-violent misdemeanors;

  • Divert people with mental health conditions into community-based treatment and alternatives; and,

  • Provide more trauma-informed response options for professionals and staff in the justice system.

Milwaukee County is widely recognized for collaboration and innovation in criminal justice reform. In recent years, through the Milwaukee Community Justice Council, the County redesigned its system, launching universal screening to include risk and need assessments for individuals booked into the jail. This evidence-based practice provides risk information for pretrial release decisions. Evidence-based strategies were developed for pretrial supervision and early intervention programs, such as diversion and deferred prosecutions. Milwaukee was also successful in shortening probation supervision.

The Safety & Justice Challenge builds on these past efforts, investing in innovative and commonsense strategies to further responsibly reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.

For More Information

  • Visit CJC in the Media for recent articles on the SJC initiative in Milwaukee County.
  • Inquiries can be directed to Erin Perkins, Milwaukee County SJC Project Manager, by email or by calling (414) 276-8240 x 9.
  • Follow the MacArthur Foundation Safety & Justice Challenge and join the #RethinkJails conversation on Facebook and Twitter.


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