Lucas County Announces $100,000 in Grant Funding to Support Criminal Justice Reform and Address Racial Disparity in Jails

The Lucas County Commissioners last week announced a new grant initiative to partner with community-based groups to support criminal justice reform and address racial disparity in local jails.

The Lucas County grant program will provide resources to community-based organizations doing innovative work on criminal justice and will further the goals of the county’s participation in the MacArthur Foundation Safety + Justice Challenge.

These grants of up to $10,000 are designed to advance racial equity in the criminal justice system and safely reduce the local jail population.

“After six years, we are taking the MacArthur Safety + Justice Challenge money out of the court system and placing it in the hands of the community to effect change. While we have done great work in reducing the jail population, we have not effectively reduced the disparity of arrests in communities of color. If we want to solve this we need the community’s help. With these grants, we can help to start that process.” said Commissioner Pete Gerken.

Under the grant fund, community groups will receive funding to create and implement innovative projects for criminal justice reform targeting the Toledo ZIP codes of 43604, 43607, 43608, and 43610. These funds will strengthen the ability of organizations to deliver a community-based approach to address the racial disparity in local jails and provide equitable solutions that enhance safety and justice.

“We can’t assume that good ideas on criminal justice reform only come from government. In fact, we need to facilitate more discussion for a process that includes the community to think about how we reform our legal system. We think that supporting community organizations is a step in building trust and incorporating more people in the process to improve our justice system,” said Commissioner Gary L. Byers.

“Lucas County has made great strides to reduce the local jail population. However, there is still much that needs to be done to address the over incarceration of people in the Black and Brown communities,” said Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak. “It is important that we, as a community, work together through innovated methods and programs to improve public safety and address racial and ethnic disparities in our community.”

Lucas County was first selected to join the MacArthur Foundation Safety + Justice Challenge Network in 2015 and has since used the resources and funding provided by the initiative to implement evidencebased solutions and strategies to rethink and redesign its criminal justice system to be more fair, just, and equitable for all.

These strategies include the formation of a Community Engagement Workgroup in 2020 to focus on engaging local community members and anchor institutions in targeted neighborhoods to provide insight and guidance on criminal justice reform strategies, including ways to advance racial equity.

Over 40 community members and residents participated in the listening sessions, which served as a foundation for the Commissioners to launch the grant fund. Additional strategies undertaken by Lucas County include increased training for criminal justice system factors to focus on procedural justice, implicit bias, crisis intervention, and de-escalation; routine population review to identify people whose cases can be resolved or can be released from jail without risk to the public; expedited case processing; the Toledo Municipal Court diversion program for repeat offenders as an alternative to jail; collaboration among the county’s five probation departments to share evidence-informed practices and coordinate trainings; and the Opportunity Project, which embeds social workers in the public defender’s office interview of clients at their first court appearance to connect them with special social services upon release.

Since joining the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety + Justice Challenge in 2015, Lucas County has advanced local criminal justice reform and reduced the local jail population by 42 percent while maintaining public safety.

To date, Lucas County has received $4.6 million as part of the Safety + Justice Challenge. Application process: The first step in the process is to submit a proposal through a form that is available at Proposals also can be mailed or dropped off to the Lucas County Commissioners, Government Center, Suite 800, Toledo, Ohio 43604 Timeline: Proposals are due before noon on November 22, 2021 and applicants will be notified by December 16, 2021 regarding whether they are receiving a grant.

Funded projects will begin January 1, 2022. Eligibility: To be eligible, applicants must meet the following criteria: applicant must have valid 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, or partner with a nonprofit organization that can serve as a fiscal sponsor.

Requirements: Applicant must file a grant funding report. More information about the work underway in Lucas County can be found on as well as on