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Pennington County has received a $300,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation for a leadership circle that will advise the county on criminal justice reform.

Lis Hassett, coordinator for the county's reform efforts, said the grant will be used to compensate "a very diverse, well-rounded, supported group of individuals."

The money will be used to train and support current community leaders and identify and develop future ones, a news release says. The goal is to address the issue of overburdened leaders and the lack of Native Americans and other minorities in decision-making positions.

"Community members are absolutely imperative to the success of any process," Hassett said. "When community members come to the table, they come because they care and because they want to help."

Hassett added, however, that the work they do is challenging, and they are essentially unpaid volunteers putting in hours beyond their day jobs.

"The present community leaders are overburdened and face a high risk of burnout," the Pennington County Sheriff's Office said in the news release. 

The $300,000 grant comes from the MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge, a more than $100 million nationwide initiative to reduce over-incarceration. The new funding is in addition to the $1.75 million the sheriff's office and circuit court received in October 2017 to create programs to reduce the jail population. 

The foundation was impressed with the county's efforts to resolve warrants for people who live in Native American reservations, the news release said. 

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— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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Criminal justice reporter