October 24, 2018 In The News, Media

Camden County Joins National Jail Reform Initiative

Gloucester Township Patch
October 24, 2018

Camden County is joining a national initiative that focuses on changing the way America thinks about and uses jails, county officials announced on Wednesday. The goal of the $148 million Safety and Justice Challenge is to reduce over-incarceration.

Camden County and the other jurisdictions will design and test innovative local justice reforms designed to safely drive down jail usage and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their local justice systems.

Camden County was chosen by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation following a highly competitive selection process that drew applications from across the country. The county will receive support and expert technical assistance in designing and implementing local reforms through the challenge’s Innovation Fund.

The county will initially receive $50,000, and will be eligible for future funding opportunities, officials said. It will also have access to the resources, peer learning opportunities, and expertise of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network.

The Urban Institute, which is managing the Innovation Fund in partnership with the Foundation, will provide expert technical assistance to the jurisdictions as they implement their plans. Key learnings and resources emerging from the Innovation Fund will be shared with and beyond the justice reform field.

“Over-incarceration is among the most impactful problems of our time and our country has yet to identify a truly workable solution,” Camden County Freeholder Bill Moen said. “The Safety and Justice Challenge is an opportunity for our community to play an integral role in the process of solving this key issue which overburdens our prisons and disproportionately affects families of racial and ethnic minorities.”

The Camden County Jail has a large percentage of inmates that enter the facility with mental health, substance abuse disorders, lack of education, employment and housing. To address this issue in the local justice system, the jail will create a network of reentry specialists to serve as mentors for the previously incarcerated, provide training to criminal justice and community stakeholders to enhance opportunities for the jail population and create a reentry website and navigator to improve accessibility to resources and services.

“There is growing demand for criminal justice reform across the country, and local jurisdictions are leading the way,” said Laurie Garduque, MacArthur’s Director of Justice Reform. “MacArthur is increasing our investment in local just reform innovations because we are seeing promising results and an appetite for more reform as evidenced by the diversity and creativity of the solutions implemented and tested across the Network.”

Camden County will continue to place an emphasis on community engagement and collaboration among local law enforcement, corrections officials, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and other stakeholders in this work to test, innovate, and drive reform.

“There are more jobs and educational opportunities in Camden City, and our communities are steadily becoming safer and more secure. Now, innovative programs like this will ensure that Camden keeps rising and leading the nation on improvements to our justice system,” Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1) said. “The trailblazing law enforcement progress in Camden is thanks to positive relationships between all levels of government, leaders of local institutions and nonprofit organizations. As Camden City builds upon New Jersey’s bail reform success, I look forward to working with partners in Camden, New Jersey and Congress to enact meaningful criminal justice reform that makes our system fair and effective.”

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