MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge awards $2.5M grant to Cook County

Released On 02/05/2020

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded the Cook County justice system a $2.5 million grant to continue advancing criminal justice reform. Today’s announcement brings the MacArthur Foundation’s total investment in Cook County to $4.4 million.

The grant is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $217 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and address racial and ethnic disparities in local criminal justice systems. Cook County was first selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2015, after a competitive selection process that drew applications from nearly 200 jurisdictions. Cook County is one of five jurisdictions selected today for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date.

Five years after its public launch, the Challenge Network has grown into a collaborative of 51 jurisdictions in 32 states that seek to create more effective justice systems across the country.

The $2.5 million grant will support the following efforts:

  • Attorneys and court staff will review cases of pretrial defendants with low monetary bonds to determine what the barriers are preventing the posting of bail.
  • Defendants with repeat arrests, in which substance abuse or mental health is an underlying factor, could be provided peer mentors to assist them as their case is pending to ensure that they follow through on treatment plans and attend court dates as required.
  • Nonviolent defendants accused of narcotics distribution could be offered services to help them seek employment and avoid actions that harm communities.
  • The justice system stakeholders will examine whether a process can be established to allow defendants with years-old outstanding warrants to come to court to address the warrants via a future court date.

“Local jurisdictions are proving it is possible for cities and counties to rethink local justice systems from the ground up, despite challenges and an ever-changing political environment,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Criminal Justice. “MacArthur remains committed to supporting jurisdictions as they set ambitious reform goals and pursue smart solutions that safely reduce jail populations, address disparities, and eliminate ineffective, inefficient and unfair practices.”

The following officials issued these statements regarding today’s announcement:

Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans: “As criminal justice reform continues in the Circuit Court of Cook County, I appreciate the support from the MacArthur Foundation. Today’s announcement brings more help to individuals to show them alternatives to their actions as we will enhance services for substance abuse, mental health and employment. I look forward to working with the stakeholders and the MacArthur Foundation on these crucial initiatives.”

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle: “I am deeply grateful for the MacArthur Foundation's investment in Cook County’s criminal justice reform efforts. The support provided by this grant will allow us to continue to reduce systemic inequities within the system. I am proud of our progress through the Safety and Justice Challenge and look forward to the work ahead.”

Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown: “The MacArthur Foundation’s magnanimous $2.5 million grant greatly encourages Cook County justice system stakeholders to further our efforts to reduce over-incarceration in our jails and eradicate its disproportionately negative impact on people of color and impoverished communities. It also affords us the necessary latitude to effect positive change in the criminal justice system while keeping public safety as a priority.”

Public Defender Amy P. Campanelli: “This next round of funding from the MacArthur Foundation will help Cook County continue to build upon our efforts to reform our criminal justice system into one that is more equitable and just for the clients we zealously fight for every day.”

Sheriff Thomas J. Dart: “Reforming our criminal justice system has long been my priority and I welcome the MacArthur Foundation’s continued support toward thoughtfully tackling the inequities we see on a daily basis.”

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx: “We are pleased that the MacArthur Foundation continues to recognize our collective efforts as we work to responsibly reform the criminal justice system in Cook County. With the support of this grant, my office looks forward to continued collaboration with the other criminal justice stakeholders to identify and implement strategies that reflect the needs of the community in safe, systematic and sustainable ways.”

Debra D. Carey, interim CEO at Cook County Health: “We are grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for awarding us this grant and recognizing our collaborative efforts to become a model of care for individuals detained and awaiting trial. The grant funds will help us to continue our work within the Safety and Justice space to help safely reduce jail populations and over-incarceration by providing better linkages to medical, behavioral and substance abuse services outside of the jail system.”

Barbara West, Deputy Superintendent, Constitutional Policing and Reform (effective February 16, 2020), Chicago Police Department: “The Chicago Police Department is committed to creating safer, more peaceful neighborhoods across the city through increased collaboration, innovation and problem solving. The Safety and Justice Challenge has been an invaluable resource for connecting agencies, data and new knowledge around alternatives to arrest and incarceration.”

Several of the nation’s leading criminal justice organizations will continue to provide technical assistance and counsel to Cook County partners and the other jurisdictions involved in the Challenge. These include the Center for Court Innovation, Everyday Democracy, Nexus Community Partners, the Institute for State and Local Governance at the City University of New York, JFA Institute, the Justice Management Institute, Justice System Partners, the Pretrial Justice Institute, Policy Research Inc., the Vera Institute of Justice, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, Urban Institute and Bennett Midland.

More information about the Safety and Justice Challenge can be found at




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 advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the global 100&Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at



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