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MacArthur Grant to help fight over-incarceration in Palm Beach County

Posted at 7:26 PM, Jun 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-13 20:54:44-04

A $2 million grant is helping to reduce over-incarceration in Palm Beach County jails.

The state of Florida has one of the highest incarceration rates.

"Even 3 days in a jail awaiting your trial can have serious negative consequences on you," Kristina Henson, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice, said.

In Palm Beach County, the average daily population of a jail is a little more than 2,000 people. Henson says that number is too high. 

"There are ways procedurally that we can improve the system to make sure that those 70 percent of the 2,000 who are sitting in our jail pretrial to make sure that those people need to sit there because they pose some type of risk," she said.?

So, they applied and won the MacArthur Grant a $100 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration. The John D and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation awarded Palm Beach County $2 million to help fight over-incarceration.

"Helps to fund staffing, it helps to fund research and it helps to fund programs."

So far, Henson calls the research eye opening. Revealing that African Americans make up more than 50 percent of the jail population when they only make up 19 percent of the county's population. She's hoping this new program won't only fix overpopulation in jails, but racial disparities as well.

"Jails can put in motion some serious consequences later on," she said. 

For Kwon, he's seen the affects of the criminal justice system firsthand.

"I have two uncles that spent more than half their life in prison," he said.

Kwon works as a therapist at a local juvenile detention center. He also operates a non-profit art collective called Youth Concept Gallery. He says growing up without watching his family members in and out of jail was difficult. 

"I grew up without an uncle, I grew up without that mentorship," he said. I grew up just understanding that so that got me more into working with the prison system and different reforms and the juveniles."

For him, preventing jail overpopulation starts with the youth.

"We can't condition and train these kids to take the same routes that our elders took," he said.

Henson said by September of 2019 they're hoping to have the local jail population reduced by 16 percent.