February 20, 2024 | From City of New Orleans


Funding will support ongoing public safety and racial equity initiatives.

NEW ORLEANS — The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Coordination (OCJC), led by Commissioner Tenisha Stevens, has been awarded a capstone $500,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, recognizing eight years of progress by New Orleans towards safely reducing the local jail population while addressing inequities in the justice system. The grant marks a total of $5.8 million invested in New Orleans by the foundation as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $381.5 million national initiative to reduce the misuse and over-use of jail and eliminate racial inequity in local criminal justice systems.

“I am incredibly proud of the progress that we have made with our criminal legal system partners over the last eight years to safely reduce New Orleans’ jail population and address racial inequities,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “The MacArthur Foundation has provided critical support through both financial investment and strategic partnerships to strengthen our local justice reform efforts, and we are committed to continue working to promote community safety and prevent unnecessary incarceration in New Orleans.”

Since being selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2015, the City of New Orleans has remained committed to reducing mass incarceration and promoting public safety. Through the use of data to identify the drivers of incarceration and the implementation of evidence-based strategies and policies at a local level, the average daily jail population was safely reduced by 30 percent from an average daily jail population of 1,602 detained people in 2016 to an average of 1,120 detained people in 2023.

These strategies include, but are not limited to, the Public Defender at First Appearance Initiative to help ensure that low and low-moderate risk defendants are not detained because of inability to pay, the implementation of the Public Safety Assessment and Pre-Trial Services Program, expansion of the District Attorney’s Diversion Program, support for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program that provides police officers with resources to divert individuals with mental illness and/or substance use to intensive case management and community-based treatment options, and investment in the technology infrastructure improvements that set the foundation for the $30 million dollar investment in the Justice Tech Modernization Program.

“We’re proud of the progress we have made as a community to reduce New Orleans’ jail population while also addressing the racial and economic inequities throughout the criminal legal system,” said Chief Public Defender Danny Engelberg. “Our collective work with the MacArthur Foundation and other partners has allowed us to immediately advocate for people brought into the system and has provided critical support to strengthen our efforts for a more just and equitable legal system that more appropriately responds to community needs in New Orleans.”

New Orleans has also partnered with the MacArthur Foundation in its commitment to centering racial equity by working in partnership with Total Community Action, Inc. to advance racial justice and reimagine public safety by engaging communities most impacted by the criminal legal system. The results of these initiatives have been far-reaching and include strengthened partnerships with criminal legal system agencies, advancing equitable policies within diversion programs and investing in community engagement and technological advancement.

Looking to the future, New Orleans will maintain key practices to continue the successes achieved during the Safety and Justice Challenge by codifying evidence-based best practices, institutionalizing collaborative partnerships and continuing to advocate for addressing the social determinants of crime while implementing proactive strategies to promote community safety.

This round of funding will support OCJC’s ability to sustain long-term public safety initiatives and help the City continue the strategies developed during its participation in the Safety and Justice Challenge.

“Communities participating in the Safety and Justice Challenge have generated meaningful changes in their local justice systems,” said MacArthur Foundation’s Director of Criminal Justice Laurie Garduque. “They were ambitious in setting their goals, and I am filled with a sense of hope when I look back on the Safety and Justice Challenge and the impact we have seen. We are proud of SJC grantee partners and their accomplishments, especially their resilience in response to the pandemic. This initiative was designed to be a foundational starting point for long-term criminal justice reform, and it is heartening to see its legacy unfolding in real time.”

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