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Johnson County to apply for $150,000 grant

BY BEN MARKS | MARCH 27, 2015 5:00 AM

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If all goes according to plan, Johnson County might soon receive a $150,000 grant to study disproportionate minority contact in the legal system.

Johnson County grants and communications specialist Mickey Miller presented information about the MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge Grant to the Board of Supervisors on Thursday and got its approval for submission.

The grant was launched in February by the MacArthur Foundation, which provides grants for social improvement and is designed to reduce over-incarceration in American jails.

The grant, Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said, would fund an “independent study of our practice of law enforcement policy” that would look at the minority populations incarcerated in Johnson County, arrest rates, and other contact with police forces, as well as provide a recommendation for how to solve potential issues.

“This is moving in the right direction,” Supervisor Mike Carberry said. “We have been moving in the right direction, but this will really be the point of the spear.”

The county has budgeted $30,000 in fiscal 2016 for the purpose of conducting the same study; however, the supervisors have put the project on hold until they know if they will receive the grant.

“If we don’t get the grant, we’re still going to spend the money to get the same work done; we’d just prefer to do it for free,” Supervisor Rod Sullivan said. “Our commitment to this topic is not grant-dependent; we’re going to do this either way.”

Because the county only budgeted $30,000 versus the $150,000 the grant would give, receiving the grant would allow the county to increase the scope and quality of the study, Neuzil said.

Another benefit of the grant, Miller said, is that it’s not a match grant, meaning the county doesn’t have to match any of the funds it receives.

This is the first time a study such as this has been funded at the county level, Neuzil said, although lesser studies on this subject have been conducted in the county before.

Although only 20 grants are given nationwide, Miler said, if the county receives the first $150,000 grant, it then opens up the possibility of the county being selected for the second round.

The second round would consist of the MacArthur Foundation selecting the 10 most promising grant winners out of the pool of 20 and awarding them two- to five-year implementation grants at $500,000 to $2 million per year.

The implementation grants, Miller said, would help the county put into practice the recommendations the study suggests.

“We’ve done the study, we’ve determined where you can improve, and now we’ll help you get there,” she said.

The grant is due March 31 and the award decision will be at the end of May.

“To address this issue as a collective community, with not just one government, this is a great opportunity,” Neuzil said. “So let’s hope the MacArthur Foundation people realize that this could really help this community so much more with having the kind of resources we could have.”


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