The City of New Orleans will use a $474,000 grant to expand the city’s data analytics capabilities to eliminate racial and ethnic inequities in the city’s local criminal legal system.

The grant, which is from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will be used by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Coordination (OCJC) and Total Community Action, Inc. (TCA). New Orleans’ 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.

In a press release, New Orleans said it will “use lived experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) citizens and those impacted by the criminal legal system to authentically engage the community.” The city 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. The grant funding will provide OCJC and TCA with training and technical assistance, peer-to-peer support from other cohort members and qualitative and quantitative data and analytic backing.

“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.

As part of the cohort, OCJC and TCA will create a citywide blueprint for advancing racial justice to reimagine criminal legal system reform. In a press release, New Orleans said the strategy will center on data-driven analysis and community engagement. During the planning and implementation process, OCJC and TCA will engage a diverse group of community-based organizations and community leaders to gather direct input that will assist in implementing action strategies.

“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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