Milwaukee Community Justice Council
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Safety and Justice Challenge

A nationwide effort to change the way we think about and use jails

The Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) represents a major investment by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to change the way America thinks about and uses jails.

In 2016, Milwaukee County was among 11 sites selected to join the SJC Network. Since its public launch, the network has grown into a collaborative of 74 cities, counties, and states. 

Together, these communities are modeling and inspiring innovations to create more fair, just, and equitable local justice systems across the country.

Sites receive funding and expert technical assistance to advance criminal legal system improvements, reduce racial and ethnic disparities, and strengthen community engagement.

The CJC will use its latest, three-year capstone award from MacArthur Foundation to:

Support racial equity efforts

Facilitate community engagement

Complete strategic planning

Sustain data capacity

Memorialize SJC work

Follow the MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge and join the #RethinkJails conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Our History

Milwaukee County is widely recognized for criminal legal system innovation and collaboration.

Over the last decade, Milwaukee has redesigned its system, integrating risk and needs assessments by implementing universal screening for individuals booked into the jail. This practice provides risk information to be used when making pretrial release decisions and has guided the development of evidence-based strategies for pretrial supervision and early intervention programs, including diversions and deferred prosecutions.

In 2008, the CJC launched reforms to reexamine use of the local jail. To expand these initial efforts, Milwaukee requested the support of MacArthur Foundation through its Safety and Justice Challenge initiative. 

The SJC has evolved over 5 phases:

  • Phase I (2015) engaged jurisdictions across the country to participate in the planning and development of site-specific strategies.
  • Phase II (2016 - 2018) provided funding and technical assistance to implement strategies that were identified during Phase I.
  • Phase III (2019-2020) continued support for our work, including 4 new or modified strategies and added investments in community engagement.
  • Sustainability Phase IV (2021-2022) deepened our focus on racial equity and long-term sustainability. 
  • Capstone Phase V (2023-2025) infuses final funding to promote sustainability and uphold community engagement, racial equity, and data efforts.

Our Impact

  • Funded the first Crisis Assessment Response Team (CART) with countywide jurisdiction to prevent jail admissions tied to mental health crises
  • Implemented mental health diversion and recruited a behavioral health liaison to conduct assessments in custody and connect people to community resources
  • Sponsored training and contracted for peer support services to assist people with mental health conditions
  • Launched Jail Population Review Team to identify system trends and cases that may be eligible for faster resolution and alternatives to incarceration
  • Hired an analyst to monitor jail population data and system bottlenecks
  • Created the Court Reminder Program to improve court appearance rates
  • Expanded capacity for diversions and deferred prosecution agreements
  • Provided subgrants to organizations that serve returning citizens
  • Organized Home to Stay Resource Fairs to connect individuals who are returning to the community with supportive resources
  • Established the first Transitions Clinic model in the Midwest to help returning citizens with medical needs
  • Trained 550+ stakeholders on the impact of trauma in the justice system
  • Started a criminal justice learning series with community members 

Milwaukee Community Justice Council


633 West Wisconsin Avenue - Suite 406, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203

(414) 435-1250




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