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City of Atlanta Office of the Public Defender Receives Grant to Design and Innovate Criminal Justice Reform
Posted Date: 2/2/2017 4:00 PM
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News Release

City of Atlanta Office of the Public Defender Receives Grant to Design and Innovate Criminal Justice Reform

ATLANTA – The City of Atlanta announced today that the Office of the Public Defender has been selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge, a grant program to create a more fair and effective local justice system and model reforms for the nation. The grant, which is awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is a national $100 million initiative aimed at reducing over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

Atlanta is one of 20 jurisdictions in the country chosen to 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.

“I am honored that Atlanta has been selected by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as a Safety and Justice Challenge site,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “The technical support that our public defender’s office will receive will help us continue and strengthen 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.”

“Local jurisdictions are leading the way on justice reform,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Demand for reform at the local level is considerable and growing, as evidenced by the number, diversity, and creativity of the applications we received. This momentum is encouraging; particularly as the federal justice reform landscape evolves and shifts.”

The City of Atlanta and the other sites participating in the Innovation Fund will receive technical assistance and financial support of $50,000 each and are eligible for future funding opportunities. Atlanta will also have access to the resources, peer learning opportunities, and expertise of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network.

“We are thrilled that Atlanta has been chosen to participate in the Safety and Justice Challenge,” said Rosalie Joy, Interim Director, Office of the Public Defender. “Thank you also to Mayor Reed, Councilmember Ivory Lee Young and the entire Atlanta City Council for empowering my office to pursue holistic innovations that promote effective responses to poverty, and enhance the health and welfare of the communities we are all so proud of.”

Through the Challenge’s Innovation Fund, Atlanta will receive support and expert technical assistance in designing and implementing local reforms. Atlanta’s innovations will focus on holistic defense strategies through its Public Defender’s Office to reduce recidivism and implement a case management system to track outcomes.

The Urban Institute, which is managing the Innovation Fund in partnership with the Foundation, will provide expert technical assistance to the Atlanta Public Defender Office as they implement their plans. Key findings and resources that emerge from the Innovation Fund will be shared with and beyond the justice reform field.

Other sites chosen to participate in the Safety and Justice Challenge include:

  • Adams County, CO
  • Allegheny County, PA
  • Broward County, FL 
  • Buncombe County, NC 
  • Campbell County, TN 
  • Clark County, NV 
  • Dane County, WI 
  • State of Delaware 
  • Deschutes County, OR
  • Durham County, NC
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, LA
  • Lake County, IL 
  • Minnehaha County, SD 
  • Missoula County, MT 
  • Polk County, IA 
  • City and County of San Francisco, CA
  • Santa Clara County, CA 
  • Summit County, OH 
  • Yakima County, WA

For more information about the selected jurisdictions, as well as news, research, and events related to the Safety and Justice Challenge, please visit,

About the MacArthur Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. For more information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work, visit,

About the Urban Institute
The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.


For more information about the City of Atlanta, please visit or watch City Channel 26. Follow the City of Atlanta on Facebook and Twitter @CityofAtlanta. Follow Mayor Reed on Facebook and Twitter @Kasim Reed