Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Durham County Joins the Safety and Justice Challenge to Create a Fairer, More Effective Local Justice System and Model Reforms for the Nation

Durham County is One of 20 Counties and Cities to Receive Grants to Design, Test Innovative Criminal Justice Reforms

Post Date:02/01/2017


Durham, NC The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced that Durham County, NC is one of 20 additional jurisdictions joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, a national $100 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. Durham County Government and the other jurisdictions will design and test innovative local justice reforms designed to safely drive down jail usage and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their local justice systems.


Durham County Government was chosen following a highly competitive selection process that drew applications from across the country.


“Local jurisdictions are leading the way on justice reform,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Demand for reform at the local level is considerable and growing, as evidenced by the number, diversity, and creativity of the applications we received. This momentum is encouraging, particularly as the federal justice reform landscape evolves and shifts.”


Through the Challenge’s Innovation Fund, Durham County Government will receive support and expert technical assistance in designing and implementing local reforms. Durham County Government’s innovations will focus on the implementation of an Automated Notification System (ANS), replicable in any judicial district, for use in criminal court. Individuals with charges in district and superior court will have the option to receive text or phone notices regarding their scheduled court dates. If successful, the tool will help to reduce the number of individuals who fail to appear for their scheduled court date. “People forget things. It’s only human,” says Durham County Clerk of Superior Court Archie L. Smith, III. “Medical providers generate appointment reminder calls to insure that health needs are timely met. We will provide reminder calls such that legal obligations can be timely addressed.”


Durham County Government and the other Innovation Fund jurisdictions will receive short-term support of $50,000 each, are eligible for future funding opportunities, and have access to the resources, peer learning opportunities, and expertise of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network. The Urban Institute, which is managing the Innovation Fund in partnership with the Foundation, will provide expert technical assistance to the jurisdictions as they implement their plans. Key learnings and resources emerging from the Innovation Fund will be shared with and beyond the justice reform field.


As in many jurisdictions, Durham County has long been concerned about the number of individuals in our detention facility and, in collaboration with the courts, has embarked on numerous efforts to reduce over-incarceration in our local jail and improve the lives of citizens in our justice system. To address the number of people with revoked bonds for missed court appearances, Durham County will implement an ANS for individuals with scheduled cases in Durham’s District and Superior Criminal Courts. This service will be available to citizens at no cost and be the first of its kind in North Carolina.


Durham County Government will continue to place an emphasis on community engagement and collaboration among local law enforcement, corrections officials, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and other stakeholders in this work to test, innovate, and drive reform. In accepting this challenge, Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center will work in partnership with Durham County Clerk of Superior Court Archie L. Smith, Public Defender Lawrence M. Campbell, Chief District Court Judge Marcia H. Morey, District Attorney Roger A. Echols, and Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson who will work to ensure the implementation of the ANS through the Innovation Fund.


“Participation in the Innovation Fund is an ideal opportunity for us to test the assumptions that we can reduce the number of citizens who fail to appear for scheduled court dates and thus reduce the number of inmates in our jail whose bond was revoked for that reason,” says Director of the Durham County CJRC Gudrun Parmer. “Not only will the Innovation Fund award will support Durham’s efforts to reduce the number of inmates in detention with low-level offenses, it will also allow us to learn from effective criminal justice reform policies and practices elsewhere in the nation.”


The Innovation Fund jurisdictions expand the Challenge’s reach into new states and deepen its work across the country. They include:


  • Adams County, CO
  • Allegheny County, PA
  • City of Atlanta, GA
  • Broward County, FL
  • Buncombe County, NC
  • Campbell County, TN
  • Clark County, NV
  • Dane County, WI
  • State of Delaware
  • Deschutes County, OR
  • Durham County, NC
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, LA
  • Lake County, IL
  • Minnehaha County, SD
  • Missoula County, MT
  • Polk County, IA
  • City and County of San Francisco, CA
  • Santa Clara County, CA
  • Summit County, OH
  • Yakima County, WA


Information about the selected jurisdictions, as well as news, research, and events related to the Safety and Justice Challenge, will be published on


For more information about Durham County Government’s plans for implementation of the innovation fund, contact Parmer at (919) 560-0500 or





About the MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy, as well as the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at


About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.


About the Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center

The Criminal Justice Resource Center has a track record of successfully implementing system-improvement services and will serve as the lead agency for the project. With committed criminal justice partners, the CJRC has embarked on numerous efforts to reduce over-incarceration in the local jail and improve the lives of citizens in the local justice system.  Durham County recently enhanced its mental health services in the detention facility, implemented a Misdemeanor Diversion Program that serves young individuals ages 16-21 and is continuing to identify opportunities to improve court processes.