DOJ Grant Establishes New Center to Improve Jail Conditions

 grant award of almost $2 million to establish the Department of Justice Jails and Justice Support Center
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The Office of Justice Programs (OJP)’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) announced today a grant award of almost $2 million to establish the Department of Justice Jails and Justice Support Center to help create and maintain safe environments for people in the custody of the nation’s jails and those who work in jail facilities.

“It is the responsibility of our corrections systems — jails and prisons alike — to keep individuals in their custody safe and to treat them with dignity and respect,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “We are pleased to work with our partners to ensure that the professionals operating our nation’s jails have the tools and training they need to safeguard the rights and well-being of individuals incarcerated in their facilities.”

More than 3,000 jails are in operation across the United States, with 10.3 million admissions in 2019 and an average daily census of 734,500. Jail administrators face a multitude of challenges, including high population turnover, limited resources and a broad mix of sentenced and unsentenced individuals. Of particular concern is mortality in jails. OJP’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 1,200 people died in local jails in 2019.

This award aims to establish a center that will be a centralized hub for providing resources and technical assistance support to help jails maintain safe and humane environments for people who are detained, for their visitors and for those who work there. It will also provide jail staff with specialized trainings, core competency development, expert assessments and consultation on issues related to jail administration, and other professional development resources. The center will be the first of its kind to maximize the core missions, resources and capabilities of both BJA and NIC to expand Justice Department support for jail administrators who identify and seek to address challenges in their systems.

“Millions of people cycle through America’s jails each year, bringing with them a host of challenges, but also presenting opportunities to address the health and well-being of those who enter and leave the system,” said BJA Director Karhlton F. Moore. “This new resource will help jail professionals address the urgent problems they face daily and ensure that conditions inside their facilities are safe, humane and constitutionally sound.”

Shaina Vanek, who served as NIC Acting Director for over five years before leaving recently for a detail at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was instrumental in conceptualizing and designing the center. The award to establish the center is being made to CNA. The National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the American Jail Association and the National Association of Counties are partners in the effort. These organizations represent jail administrators and sheriffs’ departments across the country and will use their combined talent and expertise to support the center’s mission.

The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.

The National Institute of Corrections advances public safety by shaping and enhancing correctional policies and practices through leadership, learning and innovation. More information about NIC can be found at www.nicic.gov.

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