PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - Pima County is set to make a major move Tuesday to reduce the number of nonviolent criminals sitting in jail cells.
County supervisors will accept a $1.5 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of Phase II of the Safety and Justice Challenge.
The grant is part of the foundation's criminal justice reform initiative, which is aimed at reducing incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jail cells.
Pima County is one of only 11 jurisdictions in the country to be selected for this grant.
A recent study revealed the Pima County Jail was filling up so fast, the county would eventually need to add more beds or build a new jail completely.
About 80 percent of people who are in jail in Pima County are awaiting trial.
More than 50 percent of them suffer from mental health issues.
The goal of the project is to reduce the number of jail admissions by 18 percent over the next three years.
With this grant, officials hope to close five to six 64-person jail pods at the Pima County Jail, saving the county more than $2.5 million a year.
Additionally, defendants will go through a behavioral health screening when they're arrested.
Treatment alternatives will be provided to a judge before and after trial.
This money will also help the county get data software and improve court date reminders.
The project is only geared towards nonviolent offenders, such as minor drug offenses.