The Philadelphia Inquier: Chris Palmer and Samantha Melamed - February 9, 2021
Philadelphia has been awarded a $2.3 million MacArthur Foundation grant to continue its efforts to reduce the city’s jail population and address racial inequities within the criminal justice system, officials announced Tuesday.
The grant — the fourth since 2015 that MacArthur’s Safety and Justice Challenge Network has given to the city — is aimed at reducing by 15% the number of people in city jails by the end of 2022. Philadelphia’s jail population, currently around 4,600 people, has already fallen by 43% since 2015.
Still, that reduction has not improved racial disparities within the city’s jails. According to an application for the grant the city submitted last year, 92% of the people in custody were people of color, compared with 65% of the city’s population.
Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement: “Building on Philadelphia’s progress is especially critical as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustices against Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color reinforce the need to transform how systems operate.”
The announcement comes after a year in which advocates pressed Kenney to “defund the police” and reduce the city’s spending on law enforcement.
It also comes as the city continues to experience unprecedented levels of gun violence, with 62 homicides recorded in the first 39 days of this year, according to police statistics. The city’s annual homicide tally has increased every year since 2016.
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