Cities Contribute to Hitting the Reset on Mass Incarceration

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Three new resources from the National League of Cities (NLC) offer an introduction and strategy overview for cities on the overuse and misuse of jails, opportunities for city leadership to reduce the use of jails and attendant disparities, action steps to get started and examples from around the country. NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families developed these resources through its strategic alliance with the Safety and Justice Challenge of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Topics of the resource briefs include:

City Strategies to Reduce the Use of Jails for Young Adults

Cities that lead justice system reform efforts stand to produce benefits to public safety, better allocation of scarce resources, and improved overall outcomes for young adults.

City Strategies to Support Alternatives to Arrest for People with Substance Abuse Treatment Needs

The mismatch between high rates of substance abuse, and local capacity focused on substance abuse reduction and treatment, often results in local jails becoming the primary provider of substance abuse services. However, jail and the criminal justice system constitute ineffective, even harmful, responses to substance abuse among young adults. In addition, racial and ethnic disparities exist in the enforcement of drug laws.

How Cities Can Provide Alternatives to Jails and Improve Outcomes for Young Adults with Mental Health Concerns

Daily, in cities across the country, behaviors of young people with mental health disorders come to the attention of law enforcement. Absent a coordinated steer toward community-based mental health services, significant numbers of people with serious mental illness cycle frequently through arrest and jail.

For more information and to receive future announcements about NLC’s City Leadership to Reduce the Use of Jails initiative in your inbox, contact Laura Furr, Program Manager for Justice Reform and Youth Engagement in the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at

Photo: Getty.

About the author: Laura E. Furr is the program manager for justice reform and youth engagement in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Laura on Twitter at @laura_furr or reach her at