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Lucas County awarded $960K grant to rethink local justice system

Lucas County is one of 15 jurisdictions selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work since 2015.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Lucas County is the recipient of a $960,000 grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to continue building on efforts in collaboration with local leaders and the community to rethink the local criminal justice system, safely reduce Lucas County’s jail population, and eliminate racial inequities. 

The grant brings the Foundation’s total investment in Lucas County to $4.61 million to date and is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $246 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and advance racial equity in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

The Safety and Justice Challenge is supporting local leaders, individuals directly and most impacted by the justice system, and the broader community in Lucas County and across the country who are determined to address one of the greatest drivers of over-incarceration in America – the misuse and overuse of jails. 

Lucas County was first selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2015 and has since used the resources and funding provided by the initiative to implement evidence-based solutions.

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These solutions include coordinated probation practices, a jail population review team, diversion of underserved populations, managing based on risk, and listening sessions. As a result, the average daily population confined in the Lucas County Corrections Center and Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio has declined 42% due to the cumulative impact of strategies put in place to reduce the overuse of jails while improving community safety.

Today, Lucas County is one of 15 jurisdictions selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date. This new round of funding will provide Lucas County and partners with continued support and expert technical assistance to strengthen and expand strategies that address the main drivers, and resulting racial inequities, of local jail incarceration.

Additionally, building on Lucas County’s progress to date is especially critical as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustices against Black, Indigenous, Latinos, and other people of color reinforce the need to transform how the system operates. The 42% jail reduction enabled Lucas County to adopt social distancing measures in jails as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

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“A sustained partnership with the community is critical to redefining safety. The additional support from the Safety and Justice Challenge will help us focus our reform plans on community-developed solutions to eliminate over-representation of people of color in our local justice system in Lucas County and actively respond to the community’s needs,” a statement by Lucas County commissioners read.

In partnership with the Lucas County Sheriff, Chiefs of Police, County and Municipal Judges, the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the Community Corrections Planning Board, the Toledo Legal Aid Society, and various community leaders, The Lucas County Commissioners have developed a comprehensive plan to sustain strategies and initiatives over the next two years to invest in a safer, more effective, and more equitable system. These include: law enforcement practices, managing the jail population-based on risk, expedited case processing, diversion of underserved populations, and coordinated community corrections practices, and reducing racial and ethnic disparities.  

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As part of our on-going work, Lucas County launched a series of community listening sessions in the fall and winter of 2020.  The Listening Sessions focused on the 43604, 43607, 43608, and 43610 ZIP codes.  Over 40 community members and residents participated in the sessions.  

The listening sessions served as a foundation for phase two of the community engagement initiative that will culminate in funding micro-projects targeting minority overrepresentation in jail.

More than five years after its public launch, the Safety and Justice Challenge has grown into a collaborative of 51 jurisdictions in 32 states modeling and inspiring reforms to create more fair, just, and equitable local justice systems across the country.

“We must confront the devastating impacts of mass incarceration by a system that over-polices and over-incarcerates Black, Indigenous, and Latino people,” MacArthur’s Director of Criminal Justice  Laurie Garduque said. “Over the past five years, the Safety and Justice Challenge have safely reduced the ineffective and harmful use of jails, while learning that jail population reduction alone does not undo the racial inequities perpetuated by an unjust system and our nation’s history of systemic racism. We are committed to support cities and counties as they reimagine a definition of safety that is inclusive of all communities and makes meaningful progress towards our goal of ending racial and ethnic disparities in jails.”

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