The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Coordination (OCJC) and Total Community Action, Inc. (TCA) received a $474K grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to elevate efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic inequities in New Orleans’ local criminal legal system, the City announced today.

The grant is a part of the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), a $300 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and address racial and ethnic disparities in local criminal legal systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.   

New Orleans was one of four jurisdictions selected to join the SJC’s Racial Equity Cohort and will work in partnership with local community organizations to focus on racial and ethnic equity in the criminal legal system. 

“This grant award is another important step to continuing to pursue our vision of centering racial justice and making strides to reduce racial inequities within our local criminal legal system. It takes all of us to hold our criminal legal system accountable to be fair and equitable and provide comprehensive justice for people at each point in the system,” said Criminal Justice Commissioner Tenisha Stevens. “The City of New Orleans is excited about this opportunity to partner with Total Community Action, a pillar in our community, to uplift and center the voices of people most impacted by the criminal legal to create solutions to systemically eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in the Orleans Parish criminal legal system, while advancing and justice and community safety for all of our citizens.”  

As part of the Racial Equity Cohort, the City and TCA will create a citywide blueprint for advancing racial justice to reimagine criminal legal system reform — a strategy that will center data-driven analysis and community engagement. The planning and implementation process will engage a diverse group of community-based organizations and community leaders to gather direct input that will assist in implementing action strategies.

“TCA welcomes this unique opportunity to collaborate with the City of New Orleans and the Safety and Justice Challenge to convene, connect, and mobilize our community in addressing the racial and ethnic disparities in our local criminal justice system,” said Thelma H. French, President & CEO of TCA.   

The creation of the Racial Equity Cohort is part of the MacArthur Foundation’s commitment to centering racial equity and the voices of citizens most impacted by the criminal legal system. The new funding will support more intentional and effective strategies to eliminate institutional and systemic racism, utilizing a multi-faceted and multi-system approach to achieving racial equity and justice.   The other jurisdictions selected to participate in the Racial Equity Cohort are Cook County (IL), Philadelphia (PA) and Pima County (AZ). Each participant is joined by a community partner organization.

“While the Safety and Justice Challenge has been successful in reducing local jail populations, it has also taught us that this alone will not eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” said Laurie Garduque, the MacArthur Foundation’s Director of Criminal Justice. “By pairing the leadership of people most impacted by mass incarceration with the expertise of government partners, we hope this cohort of jurisdictions will challenge systemic racism in our justice systems and create policies and practices to sustain long-term change.”  

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