Jails admit nearly 12 million people every year. Yet they are largely off the radar of critics of mass incarceration. However, as a new report by Vera Institute and actions by activists around the country demonstrate, jails matter.
In February, the MacArthur Foundation launched a $75 million grant initiative to support counties and cities in developing strategies to reduce jail populations. Julia Stasch, MacArthur's president, noted that "jails are where our nation's incarceration problem begins [and] too often serve as warehouses for those too poor to post bail, nonviolent offenders, or people with mental illness." The MacArthur initiative represents a belated awakening to the reality that jails are the local face of mass incarceration and, in many places, the New Jim Crow.