How Your City Can Receive Technical Assistance to Reduce the Use of Jails

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The next phase in this NLC initiative can help your city better allocate scarce resources as well as improve public safety and overall outcomes for young adults.

Close to home in cities, jails open up the “front door of mass incarceration” by placing five times as many people behind bars each year compared with prisons. Cities have opportunities to reduce the number of people entering jail by taking measures such as providing local law enforcement with more and better tools and alternatives to arrest, supporting community-based alternatives to jails, and creating supports for people returning from incarceration.

This month, NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families launches the next phase in the Cities Lead to Reduce the Use of Jails initiative to support city leaders in joining the national momentum to reduce the use of jails. By aligning with this momentum, cities can produce benefits to public safety, better allocate scarce resources, and improve overall outcomes for young adults.

As the next step of this initiative, the YEF Institute has issued a request for proposals through which cities can request technical assistance.

The YEF Institute will competitively select up to six diverse cities to receive 20 months of intensive technical assistance through this initiative. In this case, the YEF Institute draws upon more than 15 years of effective support for city leaders, including in the related area of juvenile justice reform. The technical assistance will include assisting participating cities to collect and analyze local data to identify opportunities for progress, develop and implement strategies that redress local gaps and needs, and maximize local potential to reduce the misuse and overuse of jails.

“The National League of Cites was a great partner helping guide New Orleans in its efforts. They helped us work through implementing new ideas, bringing us examples and best practices that made sense in a local context.” – Sarah Schirmer, criminal justice policy advisor, office of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, city of New Orleans (participating city in a previous technical assistance cohort)

The technical assistance will work with cities to achieve two of the following three goals:

  • Increase pre-arrest diversion, or
  • Develop a system of robust community-based alternatives to the criminal justice system, and
  • Reduce racial and ethnic disparities in arrests and jail bookings

One special feature of the technical assistance phase includes the Mayors’ Institute on Jail Use Reduction, designed to engage the mayors of the six cities receiving technical assistance along with key staff members and system partners. Through the Mayor’s Institute, mayors learn from each other and national experts while considering potential course corrections on goals and strategies identified through the technical assistance process. NLC will also conduct site visits to each of the participating cities.

“The site visit from NLC was extremely helpful. They did a great job facilitating access to experts and helping us assess what we needed to do.” – Julie Wertheimer, chief of staff, Criminal Justice Division, Managing Director’s Office, city of Philadelphia (participating city in a previous technical assistance cohort)

To launch this new phase of the Cities Lead to Reduce the Use of Jails initiative, the YEF Institute will offer two back-to-back webinars. Join us on Tuesday, June 27 at 3:30 p.m. EDT to hear from local officials about successful city models for jail use reduction. This first webinar will highlight recently-released resources for cities interested in strategies to reduce the use of jails, including three information briefs and the new technical assistance described above. Register here.

The YEF Institute will also provide an informational webinar to walk potential applicant cities through the technical assistance and Request for Proposals on Thursday, June 29 at 3:00 p.m. EDT. The YEF Institute strongly recommends that cities interested in applying for technical assistance participate in this informational webinar. Register here.

The deadline for cities to submit proposals to receive technical assistance is Friday, July 21 at 5:00 p.m. EDT. The YEF Institute offers this initiative thanks to the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

Featured image from Getty Images.

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 @laura_furr or email her at