By Jenn Stanley.

About 12 million people pass through America’s 3,000 jails each year. Many are awaiting prison sentences. Many are mentally ill. Many are people who can’t afford bail.

The MacArthur Foundation today announced a new grant intended to help address this aspect of America’s mass incarceration problem. In its first phase of a five-year, $75 million funding program, the Chicago-based organization is giving 20 jail systems $150,000 each to look into reducing their number of inmates. (Note: Next City receives funding support from MacArthur.)

According to an AP article:

The selected corrections systems will design a plan and work with experts to coordinate judges, prosecutors, court administrators, police and corrections officials to make the criminal just system run more efficiently … . From the 20, half will then be picked for a second round of funding of $500,000 to $2 million next year to put the plans in place.

The nation’s biggest jail systems in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia were selected for the planning grants, as well as smaller lockups … .

This month, the Vera Institute of Justice released, “The Price of Jails: Measuring the Taxpayer Cost of Incarceration,” which found that though the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that the 2011 cost of jails was a prodigious $22.2 billion, that’s actually a vast underestimate.

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