City of St. Louis Joins the Safety and Justice Challenge to Create a Fairer, More Effective Local Justice System and Model Reforms for the Nation

St. Louis is one of 12 counties and cities to receive grants to design and test innovative criminal justice reforms

October 24, 2018 | 3 min reading time

This article is 6 years old. It was published on October 24, 2018.

The City of St. Louis has been selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge, a national initiative led by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Urban Institute to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

St. Louis and the other jurisdictions will each receive $50,000 and additional support to design and test local justice reforms designed to safely drive down jail usage and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in local justice systems.

St. Louis’ innovations will focus on developing public dashboards about the city’s jail population and data analysis tools that will assist City officials as they work to reduce incarceration.

“The Safety and Justice Challenge will help us in our collective efforts to decrease the jail population in safe and responsible ways and reduce pre-trial wait times,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said.  “Thanks to the MacArthur Foundation for supporting us in this work.”

“There is growing demand for criminal justice reform across the country, and local jurisdictions are leading the way,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Justice Reform.

“MacArthur is increasing our investment in local justice reform innovations because we are seeing promising results and an appetite for more reform as evidenced by the diversity and creativity of the solutions implemented and tested across the Network.”

As in most jurisdictions, the majority of individuals within St. Louis’ jails, are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime. About 17,000 people go through the city jail system each year.

The average length of stay for all detainees (as of March, 2018) was 203 days for felony defendants and 43 days for misdemeanor defendants. To address this issue in the local justice system, St. Louis will utilize the internal data analysis tools to design evidence-based policies to reduce incarceration.

These tools will give city officials a more detailed, individualized view into the jail population, supporting targeted interventions that reduce the unnecessary incarceration of low-risk defendants and probationers.

The City of St. Louis will continue to place an emphasis on community engagement and collaboration among local law enforcement, corrections officials, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and other stakeholders in this work to test, innovate, and drive reform.

The Innovation Fund jurisdictions expand the Challenge’s reach into new states and deepen its work across the country. They include:

  • Baltimore City, MD
  • Bernalillo County, NM
  • Camden County, NJ
  • Cumberland County, ME
  • Franklin County, OH
  • Gwinnett County, GA
  • Hennepin County, MN
  • City of Long Beach, CA
  • Norfolk County, MA
  • Sangamon County, IL
  • City of St. Louis, MO
  • Tulsa County, OK

Information about the selected jurisdictions, as well as news, research, and events related to the Safety and Justice Challenge, will be published on

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, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at

About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.


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