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Philly jail population down significantly in first year of three-year effort

 Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform meets in Philadelphia (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform meets in Philadelphia (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia’s prison population has decreased significantly in the last year, according to a new report.

The city’s Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform is reviewing the information chronicling changes i the year since the city received a $3.5 million MacArthur Foundation grant to cut the number of inmates in overcrowded jails.

Previously, 8,082 individuals were incarcerated in the city’s six facilities.

“The current population at the end of May 2017 is 6,604 individuals incarcerated,” said Rachael Eisenberg of the office of criminal justice. “That’s an 18.3 percent reduction from the beginning of our efforts.”

Reaching the goal of reducing the prison population by a third by 2019 will require a continued and coordinated effort, said Ben Lerner, managing director of the criminal justice office.

“Sure, it’s going to cost money, and money will have to be provided,” he said. “But the will I’ve described is completely shared by the funders … as long as that remains the case, we are going to be moving forward.

The goal is to put fewer nonviolent people behind bars for shorter periods of time, as well as dealing with glaring racial disparities — 72 percent of Philadelphia inmates are people of color — by providing training to root out bias across the criminal justice system

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