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Lucas County to award $100K in grants to community groups for fighting racial disparity in jails, aiding criminal justice reform

Funds from MacArthur Safety + Justice Challenge will shift from court system to community's hands.

TOLEDO, Ohio — A new criminal justice reform grant program is underway in Lucas County that will shift funds received as part of the MacArthur Foundation Safety + Justice Challenge out of the court system and into community hands. 

The Lucas County commissioners announced that $100,000 in grants will go to community-based groups to support criminal justice reform and address racial disparity in local jails. 

The grants - up to $10,000 each - will be awarded to organizations that are doing innovative work on criminal justice and the program is intended to further the county's goals of participating in the national MacArthur Foundation Safety + Justice Challenge.

Under the grant fund, community groups will receive funding for programs in the Toledo ZIP codes of 43604, 43607, 43608 and 43610. 

These funds will strengthen the ability of organizations to deliver a community-based approach to address the racial disparity in local jails and provide equitable solutions that enhance safety and justice.

The first step in the process is to submit a proposal. The form is available at https://lucascountycjcc.org/SJC. Proposals also can be mailed or dropped off to the Lucas County Commissioners, Government Center, Suite 800, Toledo, Ohio 43604 

Proposals are due before noon on Nov. 22 and applicants will be notified by Dec. 16 regarding whether they are receiving a grant. Funded projects will begin Jan. 1, 2022. 

To be eligible, applicants must meet the following criteria: applicants must have valid 501(c)(3) nonprofit status or partner with a nonprofit organization that can serve as a fiscal sponsor. Applicants must file a grant funding report.

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“After six years, we are taking the MacArthur Safety + Justice Challenge money out of the court system and placing it in the hands of the community to effect change. While we have done great work in reducing the jail population, we have not effectively reduced the disparity of arrests in communities of color. If we want to solve this we need the community’s help. With these grants, we can help to start that process,” Commissioner Pete Gerken said in a news release.

Lucas County was first selected to join the MacArthur Foundation Safety + Justice Challenge Network program in 2015. More than 40 community members and residents voiced their thoughts in listening sessions. From there, Lucas County's commissioners decided to launch the grant fund for community organizations.

“We can’t assume that good ideas on criminal justice reform only come from government. In fact, we need to facilitate more discussion for a process that includes the community to think about how we reform our legal system. We think that supporting community organizations is a step in building trust and incorporating more people in the process to improve our justice system,” Commissioner Gary L. Byers said.

Since joining the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety + Justice Challenge in 2015, Lucas County has advanced local criminal justice reform and reduced the local jail population by 42 percent while maintaining public safety. To date, Lucas County has received $4.6 million as part of the Safety + Justice Challenge.

“Lucas County has made great strides to reduce the local jail population. However, there is still much that needs to be done to address the over-incarceration of people in the Black and Brown communities,” Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said. 

“It is important that we, as a community, work together through innovated methods and programs to improve public safety and address racial and ethnic disparities in our jails.”