The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and Seventh Circuit Court announced Wednesday morning they have received a $1.75 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for criminal justice reform and to reduce the county jail population.

The grant is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a more than $100 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

“The overarching goal of our work is to reduce unnecessary incarceration and increase public safety by ensuring our limited jail space is best used,” said Seventh Circuit presiding judge Craig Pfeifle said in a press release. “One part of our plan to accomplish this is to speed up the case processing pace. Our participation in the Safety and Justice Challenge has been crucial in helping us make headway toward this goal. The additional support will help us continue this work, while also pushing our justice reform efforts further.” 

The funding is meant to provide additional support to implement strategies that address the main drivers of local jail incarceration, including ineffective practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues.

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The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and the Seventh Circuit have developed a comprehensive plan for local justice system reforms with the goal of reducing the average daily jail population by 20 to 24 percent over two years.

By 2019, the cities, counties, and states supported by the grant aim to have reduced local jail populations by 18 to 30 percent.

“Everyone benefits when our local justice systems responsibly steward taxpayer dollars and commit to safely improving outcomes for families and communities,” said Sheriff Kevin Thom in a press release. “We are encouraged by past progress and look forward to continuing these critical efforts in partnership with the community we serve.”

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