Safety + Justice Challenge
In 2020, Mecklenburg County was awarded its’ second grant in the amount of $1 million from the MacArthur Foundation as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge to continue supporting the County's efforts to develop and implement strategies capable of positively impacting the main drivers of the local jail population. In 2022, the County was awarded an additional $350,000 to ensure recent reforms were sustainable. This brings the total investment in Mecklenburg County by the MacArthur Foundation to $3.3 million.
To continue safely reducing the jail population, the County plans to implement strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies, enhancing existing services, providing non-jail alternatives for defendants, and increasing community engagement in local justice system reform. This will include enhancing services provided to defendants pretrial, implementing more meaningful first appearance hearings and improving case processing, and partnering with residents to identify and implement community-led programs and policy interventions.
Between 2014 and 2017, Mecklenburg County reduced its jail population by 11 percent. While these numbers are worthy of celebrating, Mecklenburg County's Department of Criminal Justice Services continues to search for ways to reduce the use of incarceration for defendants.
Too often, a jail stay depends on an ability to pay. Although we've increased the use of non-financial conditions of release, jail stays still too often are associated with financial capabilities.
For example, an analysis of data from January 2020 to December 2022 indicated:
Pretrial release and length of stay are main drivers of the jail population. The average pretrial jail population alone was 68 percent of the total average daily population.
Despite making up approximately 47 percent of the local population, African Americans and Hispanics make up 82 percent of the jail population
Implement strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies, enhancing existing services, providing non-jail alternatives for defendants, and increasing community engagement in local justice system reform.
Enhance services provided to defendants pretrial.
Implement more meaningful first appearance hearings and improving case processing.
Supported with an additional $1.3 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge, Mecklenburg County will continue to implement forward-looking, smart solutions to further reduce the local jail population by a total of 17 percent by December 2023.
Mecklenburg County’s Criminal Justice Services and Criminal Justice Advisory Group (CJAG) partnered with New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) to create a comprehensive Implicit Bias training for criminal justice professionals. This training examines how unconscious or implicit biases can affect an individual’s thought processes and decision making in both subtle and overt ways. Implicit biases have played a role in the disparities we see in the criminal justice system today. Module 1 defines implicit bias, the role of schemas and heuristics in structuring our thought processes, and the impact of bias on criminal justice institutions. Module 2 discusses the influence of implicit biases on existing disparities in the criminal justice system, and ways in which we may begin to understand and address bias. Module 3 focuses on strategies to reduce implicit biases, with examples of de-biasing techniques that can be applied to your everyday work as a criminal justice professional. Funding for this training was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.
Community Engagement Task Group
The Criminal Justice Community Engagement Task Group was created in 2021 as a part of Mecklenburg County's Safety and Justice Challenge Initiative. The Task Group serves as a liaison between the community and the criminal justice system to help build trust and transparency.
Mecklenburg County justice system leaders have long been proponents of utilizing data-driven decisions to improve the outcomes of our local criminal justice system. In this vein, Mecklenburg County invested in developing a criminal justice data warehouse to create a repository of cross-system data that would allow CJS staff to analyze various aspects of the criminal justice system. The CJS data warehouse, which is updated each day, contains data from the local Arrest Processing Center, jail bookings, Pretrial Services, and the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts; however, much of this data was difficult to link across the entire criminal justice system. The public facing dashboards showcasing data on Person Arrest Event, New Arrest, and Case Resolution were developed in partnership with Luminosity, Inc. (Luminosity) as part of Mecklenburg County’s participation in the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety + Justice Challenge. Luminosity is a leader in pretrial phase data and has created standard outcome measures for multiple jurisdictions across the country. Luminosity created unique identifiers that allow CJS staff to follow an individual from the point of arrest through their case dispositions in court. In addition to enhancing the data analytic capabilities of CJS, we hope that this project provides the public with more transparent information about the local criminal justice system in Mecklenburg County.