Philadelphia, PA


Through the Safety and Justice Challenge, Philadelphia has engaged in a collaborative and data-driven reform effort to reduce the size of the local jail population by 50% from 2015 to 2020, and reduce the rate of racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in the criminal justice system. Philadelphia has been awarded a total of $7.65 million from the MacArthur Foundation since 2015, including an additional $4 million award in 2018, and the City has invested more than $6 million to achieve these ambitious goals.

Despite recent system improvements and a steady reduction in the jail population, Philadelphia still has the highest incarceration rate of any large jurisdiction in the country. To address its overreliance on jails, Philadelphia will implement a range of strategies that will limit jail admissions, reduce case processing times, reduce violations of probation, and reduce its reliance on cash bail. The City will also create new opportunities to increase diversions at the point of arrest, reduce racial and ethnic disparities, and foster meaningful community engagement.

  • Philadelphia still has the highest incarceration rate of any large jurisdiction in the country, even though the jail population has decreased 36% since 2015.
  • Lengthy case processing times have contributed to an average length of stay of around 88 days – 3.5 times the national average.
  • Despite reductions in the jail population over the past three years, the rate of racial and ethnic disparities in the jail has not decreased.
  • Philadelphia will implement a robust reform plan with seven overarching strategies aimed at safely reducing the local jail population:
    1. Reduce the number of people incarcerated pretrial
    2. Create efficiencies in case processing that reduce length of stay
    3. Reduce the number of people held in jail on a probation detainer
    4. Reduce racial and ethnic disparities across the criminal justice system
    5. Reduce the number of people in jail with mental illness
    6. Increase cross-system data capacity
    7. Foster meaningful community engagement
  • Philadelphia will foster meaningful community engagement in the reform effort through the development of a community advisory committee, as well as outreach and engagement efforts that increase transparency and accountability.
  • Philadelphia will set a measurable benchmark for the reduction in disparities and leverage a newly developed data diagnostic to identify initiatives and decision points where disparities can be addressed through policy and practice.
  • Supported with an additional $4 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge, Philadelphia aims to safely reduce its jail population by an additional 16% over the next two years for a total reduction of 50% since beginning work with the Challenge in 2015.
  • Philadelphia will redouble its efforts to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic disparities across the reform effort and the criminal justice system.

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