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Fitzgerald Announces Release of County’s Safety + Justice Challenge Report

 

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced today that the county has published its year one report for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety + Justice Challenge. A national initiative to prevent the misuse and overuse of jails, stakeholders in the criminal justice system have been working collaboratively to reduce the number of people entering jail and those staying in the jail longer than necessary. As a result of the work in Allegheny County during this first year, the jail population was reduced by 7%.

 

“Addressing overincarceration isn’t an issue that I can solve on my own, and it isn’t going to be solved by County Council passing a law. It requires all of the stakeholders in the criminal justice system to be part of the solution,” said Fitzgerald. “The funding from the MacArthur Foundation has enabled us to provide additional tools for each of those stakeholders to target resources specifically to where we see or know that changes can be impactful. Our work is not done, but, together, we will continue to focus on other opportunities to reduce unnecessary jail days and increase overall fairness in our system.”

 

Allegheny County received the Safety + Justice Challenge funding in January 2019. Since receipt of the funds, Allegheny County hired and brought new staff on board, set up implementation work groups, and collected data to monitor progress. In addition to the 7% reduction in jail population, the outcomes of some individual strategies have been promising:

 

·         During evening and overnight preliminary arraignments where the Office of the Public Defender started providing representation, Magisterial District Justices used monetary bond 39% less often versus a comparison group from the same time frame in 2018;

·         Common Pleas judges heard 64 early probation violation hearings, saving an average of 84 days in jail for each case;

·         The Office of the Public Defender filed 293 motions for early termination of probation, 213 of which were granted;

·         After previously experiencing backlogs that resulted in case continuances, the District Attorney’s Office is now ready for 90% of formal arraignments; and

·         Expediting transfers to other correctional institutions has resulted in a reduction of 28 in the average daily population of the jail.

 

Allegheny County was one of 13 jurisdictions selected in October 2018 for a $2 million grant to continue building on efforts to reform the local criminal justice system and safely reduce the county jail population. The additional support and expert technical assistance is focused on implementing strategies that address the main drivers of local jail incarceration, including unfair and ineffective practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues.

 

The report, along with the Safety and Justice Challenge Plan, and other resources can be found online at:  www.alleghenycounty.us/safety-justice-challenge/index.aspx

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