Milwaukee Portal

MacArthur Safety + Justice Challenge

April 13, 2016 – The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced a $2 million grant to Milwaukee County to implement reforms to safely reduce Milwaukee’s jail population and address racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. Milwaukee County is one of 11 jurisdictions in the country chosen to receive significant funding and access to expert technical assistance to implement a plan for reform over the next two years. In total, nearly $25 million was awarded in support of ambitious plans to create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country.  To learn more about the sites, click on the map below.

Milwaukee County is widely recognized for collaboration and innovation in criminal justice reform. In recent years, by way of the Milwaukee Community Justice Council, Milwaukee County has redesigned its system, integrating risk and need assessments by implementing universal screening for individuals booked into the jail. The evidence-based practice provides risk information to be used when making a pretrial release decision. Evidence-based strategies for pretrial supervision and early intervention programs including diversion and deferred prosecutions were developed. Milwaukee has also successfully shortened probation supervision. To continue building on past reform efforts, Milwaukee County was awarded $2 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016 to invest in innovative and commonsense strategies to further responsibly reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.

To safely reduce its jail population, Milwaukee County will focus on three policy areas that will: reduce the length of stay for low-level non-violent misdemeanants; divert individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues to alternatives that will help prevent them from cycling in and out of Milwaukee’s criminal justice system; and provide more trauma-informed response options to justice system stakeholders. The county, for example, will implement a book and release program in the city of Milwaukee – a program already in place in the surrounding suburban districts – for low-level non-violent misdemeanor offenders. An integrated approach to mental health services will also allow the county to share data across agencies and provide law enforcement with enhanced resources and alternatives other than arrest and jail. Milwaukee city residents also live in the highest areas of concentrated violent crime and therefore experience greater levels of trauma on a daily basis compared to suburban residents. The trauma-informed training for law enforcement and community members, combined with the family violence diversion/deferred prosecution efforts, will improve access to necessary services for city residents and reduce the overreliance on jail and criminal justice sanctions as a response to traumatic events.


Milwaukee County: 2016 Safety and Justice Challenge Fact Sheet

Milwaukee County Press Release

An Overview of Milwaukee's Strategies

For more information on the other Safety & Justice Challenge sites, please visit:

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