St. Louis County, UMSL awarded $2.25M to reduce jail population, address racial disparity, among other focuses
Keeping people out of jail and directing them into services is the goal of a $2.25 million grant the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded today to St. Louis County and the University of Missouri–St. Louis. They aim to reduce the St. Louis County jail population by 15 to 19 percent over two years.
St. Louis County and UMSL are one of 11 sites nationally to receive the award as part of the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, a national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and help jurisdictions create fairer, more effective local justice systems.
“The way we misuse and over-use jails in this country takes an enormous toll on our social fabric and undermines the credibility of government action, with particularly dire consequences for communities of color,” said Julia Stasch, president of the MacArthur Foundation. “The thoughtful plans and demonstrable political will give us confidence that these jurisdictions will show that change is possible in even the most intractable justice-related challenges in cities, counties and states across the country.”
For St. Louis County, the money funds a pretrial release program that targets the disproportionate incarceration of minorities and members of low-income communities, a large number of whom are jailed for non-violent crimes such as probation violations or failing to pay child support on multiple occasions. The pretrial release program incorporates a careful, risk-based screening of possible participants and an accelerated hearing process.
Additional funded service programs seek to remedy the use of jails as warehouses for those with mental health conditions and help women transition out of jail and into the community.
“We’re excited to be the academic partner working with St. Louis County to offer positive, data-driven solutions to incarceration in our community,” said Beth Huebner, professor of criminology and criminal justice at UMSL and lead researcher on the grant. “The university brings a wealth of criminal justice and social welfare research and educational resources to this partnership, as well as a long history of working with diverse communities and governmental agencies on local issues.”
UMSL will help design and implement best practice models for justice reform with St. Louis County and conduct the problem analysis and evaluation portions of the program.
It will also serve as the fiscal agent for the grant and bring together local criminal justice agencies, community service providers and local citizens to develop and implement best practices stemming from the grant.
Criminology and criminal justice graduate students will help with surveying, data collection, preparation of reports and statistical analysis, as well as work directly with and alongside community partners.
Huebner and Herb Bernsen, the County Director of Justice Services, have already seen the difference service programs can make for the community. The pilot child support program alone had 82 percent of its participants successfully completing the program and paying child support, resulting in $75,000 in annual savings for the county. The pilot pretrial program produced an annual cost savings of nearly $275,000.
“These facts point to a sustainable model that can hopefully be adopted across the nation,” Huebner said.
Community partners include:
Better Family Life
Center for Women in Transition
Missouri Probation and Parole
National Association of Mental Illness
Office of State Court Administrator
Patrick Brayer, Public Defender
Queen of Peace Center
St. Louis County Police – Mental Health Crisis Intervention Team
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.
More information about the Safety and Justice Challenge is available at www.safetyandjusticechallenge.org.
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