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​Safety and Justice Challenge

In 2020, Mecklenburg County was awarded an additional $1 million from the MacArthur Foundation as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge to continue supporting the County's efforts to develop and implement strategies capable of positively impacting the main drivers of the local jail population. This brings the total investment in Mecklenburg County by the MacArthur Foundation to $3 million.

To continue safely reducing the jail population, the County plans to implement strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies, enhancing existing services, providing non-jail alternatives for defendants, and increasing community engagement in local justice system reform. This will include enhancing services provided to defendants pretrial, implementing more meaningful first appearance hearings and improving case processing, and partnering with residents to identify and implement community-led programs and policy interventions.



Between 2014 and 2017, Mecklenburg County reduced its jail population by 11 percent. While these numbers are worthy of celebrating, Mecklenburg County's Department of Criminal Justice Services continues to search for ways to reduce the use of incarceration for defendants.

Too often, a jail stay depends on an ability to pay. Although we've increased the use of non-financial conditions of release, jail stays still too often depend on ability to pay.

For example:

    • Pretrial release and length of stay are main drivers of the jail population. The average pretrial jail population alone was 63 percent of the total average daily population in 2019.

    • Despite making up approximately 46 percent of the local population, African Americans and Hispanics make up 78 percent of the jail population (as of January-November 2019).



  • Implement strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies, enhancing existing services, providing non-jail alternatives for defendants, and increasing community engagement in local justice system reform.

  • Enhance services provided to defendants pretrial.

  • Implement more meaningful first appearance hearings and improving case processing.



Supported with an additional $1 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge, Mecklenburg County will continue to implement forward-looking, smart solutions to further reduce the local jail population by a total of 17 percent by 2021.

Since March 2017, Mecklenburg County’s Criminal Justice Services and Criminal Justice Advisory Group (CJAG) have been working with New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) to create a comprehensive Implicit Bias training for criminal justice professionals. This training examines how unconscious or implicit biases can affect an individual’s thought processes and decision making in both subtle and overt ways. Implicit biases have played a role in the disparities we see in the criminal justice system today. Module 1 defines implicit bias, the role of schemas and heuristics in structuring our thought processes, and the impact of bias on criminal justice institutions. Module 2 discusses the influence of implicit biases on existing disparities in the criminal justice system, and ways in which we may begin to understand and address bias. Module 3 focuses on strategies to reduce implicit biases, with examples of de-biasing techniques that can be applied to your everyday work as a criminal justice professional. Funding for this training was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

The Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) Workgroup was created in 2017 as a part of Mecklenburg County’s Safety and Justice Challenge Initiative. The goal of the workgroup is to address racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparities in the Mecklenburg County adult criminal justice system. Racial and Ethnic disparities exist across all criminal justice systems in the United States. The Mecklenburg County criminal justice system working in partnership with each other and the community can begin to address this legacy of injustice. As part of this work, the RED Workgroup partnered with researchers from the W. Haywood Burns Institute to analyze Mecklenburg County criminal justice data for disproportionality and disparities at the decision points of arrest, filing charges, and booking into jail. The findings of this analysis are available below.

Community Engagement Task Group:

The Criminal Justice Community Engagement Task Group was created in 2021 as a part of Mecklenburg County's Safety and Justice Challenge Initiative.

The Criminal Justice Community Engagement Task Group will serve as a liaison between the community and the criminal justice system to help build trust and transparency.   

The task group is comprised of 10 members from the community of diverse backgrounds. Members of the faith community and individuals with experience with the criminal justice system are encouraged to apply.



Office Location:

Criminal Justice Services
715 E. 4th St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Hours: Mon-Fri  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.


Criminal Justice Services

Key Initiatives