PRIVATE GRANT HELPS TACKLE JAIL CROWDING MacArthur Foundation Gives County $150,000

By Hill, Kip | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), May 27, 2015 | Go to article overview

PRIVATE GRANT HELPS TACKLE JAIL CROWDING MacArthur Foundation Gives County $150,000


Hill, Kip, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


Spokane County has been rewarded for its efforts at criminal justice reform, with the deep-pocketed MacArthur Foundation selecting the area for a competitive grant to reduce overcrowding at the aging jail.

Spokane is one of 20 recipients nationwide of a $150,000 grant through the foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge program, aimed at reducing overcrowding in local jails. Jackie Van Wormer, a Washington State University professor who is heading the county's Law and Justice Council, said the award is a testament to the work being done to reform the region's system.

"For Spokane to get this, we're in the field with some really big urban jurisdictions," Van Wormer said.

The MacArthur Foundation on Tuesday would not release the full list of grant winners but said that more than 200 cities and counties nationwide applied for the grant.

Van Wormer said the money will help fund a data analyst to evaluate the population of the Spokane County Jail, where overcrowding has long been a problem. The issue prompted the creation of a three-member commission that, with the help of organizations like Smart Justice and the Center for Justice, produced a "Blueprint for Reform" in 2013.

Van Wormer, Spokane County Detention Director John McGrath and other representatives from Spokane County are in Washington, D.C., this week for an orientation on the second round of the grant process. Four federal criminal justice reform agencies will send experts to Spokane and the other 19 selected sites through December to help "craft strategies to reduce the inappropriate use of jail without compromising public safety," according to the program's website.

The goals of the program "look a lot like the Blueprint for Reform," Van Wormer said. "Creating a standardized risk assessment system, looking closely at our jail population and using data to answer some questions. What is our jail capacity? What kind of offenders do we want in jail versus who's really in there? …

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