The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) is a national initiative designed to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

The initiative was launched in spring 2015 with a competition to fund a six month planning process in 20 jurisdictions nationwide. Multnomah County was selected to participate from over 190 applications submitted, which has resulted in policy, operations and data teams analyzing the existing public safety system and developing potential strategies to reduce jail bed use while ensuring public safety. The SJC funding supports coordination of the Multnomah County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD®) pilot.

In June 2017, Multnomah County applied to the MacArthur Foundation to receive up to $1M per year for two to five years to continue to reduce local over-incarceration (see links in documents for 2017 application specifics). In October, Multnomah County was awarded $2 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge to implement strategies that address the main drivers of the local jail population, including unfair and ineffective practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues. This will include the rollout of a mental health alternative shelter program for justice-involved women, particularly women of color.


Throughout SJC planning, Multnomah County has identified strategies to reduce racial and ethnic disparities while simultaneously reducing reliance on jail. The video above highlights some of those strategies. 

The strategies and initiatives outlined in the Safety and Justice Challenge are being led by the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, which includes the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, the Multnomah County Health Department (Corrections Health and Mental Health and Addictions), the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, Metropolitan Public Defenders, Multnomah County Circuit Courts/the Oregon Judicial Department, the Police Bureaus of Portland and Gresham, the Multnomah County Office of Diversity and Equity, former Commissioner Judy Shiprack’s office.

Additional stakeholders include: the Albina Ministerial Alliance, members of the downtown/old town neighborhood associations, community-based service organizations, and members of the local business community