The Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) was awarded $2.25 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge to invest in a mix of strategies that will further reduce the average daily jail population over the next three years. To reduce the jail population safely, the CJCC will enhance police practices; increase alternatives to jail for people dealing with mental illness, substance abuse issues, and homelessness pre- and post- booking; pilot automated court reminders; and launch a risk-based pretrial management system to ensure the decision for pretrial release or detention is based on standardized assessments of risk. The CJCC will also expedite indigence screening, improve access to counsel, and reduce time to disposition. Throughout all of the above, the CJCC will improve the system’s use of data for continuous improvement and accountability.
While the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office is the Safety and Justice Challenge lead agency for administrative purposes, the initiative is led by the CJCC. The mission of the CJCC is to assist in making sustainable, data-driven improvements to Charleston County’s criminal justice system and thereby improve public safety and community well-being. In the past, the CJCC led a number of multi-stakeholder criminal justice reform efforts, including the institution of case processing improvements that has reduced average jail stays of probation and parole violators, the creation of a Jail Liaison position to facilitate lawyer-inmate communications, and a $100 million detention center expansion to alleviate overcrowding. In 2015, the CJCC reignited and expanded its efforts to continue improving the local criminal justice system in Charleston County.
Harris County, TX
While the Harris County Jail population has declined by 25% since 2009, county leaders are actively working on long-term, data-driven strategies to sustain their recent successes in jail population reduction. To continue building on past reform efforts, Harris County was awarded $2 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge to invest in strategies that will further reduce the average daily jail population over the next three years.
To tackle these issues, the county will implement several reform strategies to divert offenders from the system. For example, the county will adopt and train stakeholders on an innovative pretrial risk assessment to ensure that low-risk offenders are diverted out of the system at the earliest opportunity. Additionally, a recent analysis showed that 20% of the felony pretrial detainee population were charged with low-level, non-violent offenses. Of these, 51% were African American, 21% Hispanic, and 26% White, compared to an adult county population that is approximately 18% African American, 42% Hispanic, and 32% White. In response, a new “Reintegration Impact Court” will handle about 8,000 low-level, non-violent felony cases a year and maximize diversion by increasing the use of pretrial bonds, pretrial interventions, and probation placements. Recognizing ethnic and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, a new position of racial and ethnic disparity coordinator is being created to facilitate community forums, greater transparency and training for criminal justice stakeholders on disparities that exist in the local justice system.
Lucas County, OH
Lucas County, Ohio is in the process of comprehensive criminal justice reform, including pretrial risk assessment, enhancing community-based behavioral health and drug-dependency diversion resources, and expanding reentry-based programming. To continue building upon these reform efforts, Lucas County was awarded $1.75 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016 to invest in effective strategies to further reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years while addressing racial and ethnic disparity.
Working with law enforcement personnel, Lucas County will launch a series of pre-arrest educational and training programs addressing implicit bias, procedural justice, and crisis de-escalation, while providing meaningful jail alternatives including on-demand access to behavioral health resources. To further address racial disparity and underserved populations, pretrial diversion programs will be expanded and enhanced. The county will also establish a Population Review Team comprised of a variety of stakeholders who will conduct weekly case-by-case assessments of the entire pretrial population to identify and recommend individuals who are suitable for release or expedited case resolution. In addition, judges and court personnel will manage pretrial risk through tiered supervision options and community-based resources such as GPS electronic monitoring, and will implement coordinated probation protocols throughout all county jurisdictions.
Milwaukee County, WI
Milwaukee County is widely recognized for collaboration and innovation in criminal justice reform. In recent years, it has redesigned its system, integrating risk and need assessments by implementing universal screening for individuals booked into the jail. The evidence-based practice provides risk information to be used when making a pretrial release decision. Evidence-based strategies for pretrial supervision and early intervention programs including diversion and deferred prosecutions were developed. Milwaukee has also successfully shortened probation supervision. To continue building on past reform efforts, Milwaukee County was awarded $2 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016 to invest in strategies that will responsibly reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.
To safely reduce its jail population, Milwaukee County will focus on three policy areas that will: reduce the length of stay for low-level non-violent misdemeanants; divert individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues to alternatives that will help prevent them from cycling in and out of Milwaukee’s criminal justice system; and provide more trauma-informed response options to justice system stakeholders. The county, for example, will implement a book and release program in the city of Milwaukee – a program already in place in the surrounding suburban districts – for low-level non-violent misdemeanor offenders. An integrated approach to mental health services will also allow the county to share data across agencies and provide law enforcement with enhanced resources and alternatives other than arrest and jail. Milwaukee city residents also live in the highest areas of concentrated violent crime and therefore experience greater levels of trauma on a daily basis compared to suburban residents. The trauma-informed training for law enforcement and community members, combined with the family violence diversion/deferred prosecution efforts, will improve access to necessary services for city residents and reduce the overreliance on jail and criminal justice sanctions as a response to traumatic events.
New Orleans, LA
The Orleans Parish Prison population has declined from more than 7,500 inmates pre-Hurricane Katrina to fewer than 1,600 inmates today as a result of reforms implemented in recent years. The main strategies responsible for this decline include pretrial risk assessment and supervision, fast tracking low-level offenders at the jail, diversion of alleged probation and parole violators from detention, police issuing summons in lieu of arrest, and other initiatives.
In order to reduce the jail population safely, the City of New Orleans Mayor’s Office developed a strategic plan centered on smart decision-making in booking the right people and detaining them for the right amount of time. The plan includes a mix of innovative and common-sense solutions that focus arrest and release decisions on risk rather than financial ability, while simultaneously creating more opportunities for individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse to be diverted to community-based programs. In order to address systemic racial and ethnic disparities in its system, the city will create tracking and accountability mechanisms focused on this issue. Additionally, as part of the implementation plan, defense advocacy for pretrial arrestees will be increased and interagency coordination will be improved.
In April 2016, the Mayor’s Office was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Safety and Justice Challenge to implement the initiatives in their strategic plan to further reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.
New York, NY
New York City has seen a steep decline in serious crime since the early 1990s, accompanied by a dramatic drop in the use of jail, with the average daily jail population declining 53 percent from 21,688 in 1991 to 10,240 in 2015. The city is continuing concerted efforts to drive down both crime and unnecessary detention even further, including the recent citywide expansion of supervised release, a bail alternative program for individuals who can be safely supervised in the community while waiting for trial. The city has also taken steps to reduce the number of people with behavioral health needs cycling through jail and expanded effective reentry planning to curb recidivism. To continue building on past reform efforts, New York was awarded $2 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge to invest in strategies that will further reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.
New York City plans to institutionalize systemic changes that will increase fairness, accelerate case processing times, and more precisely calibrate the criminal justice system’s response to risk and need. The single biggest driver of the city’s jail population is case delay. The MacArthur award will support continued work to both clear the immediate backlog as well as analyze and develop targeted solutions for systemic causes of delay, reducing case processing times in an enduring way. Crucially, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice has conducted this work in partnership with leadership from the State Courts, the city’s five District Attorneys’ officers, the defense bar, and other Mayoral agencies—all of which have a role to play in reducing case delay. Additionally, the MacArthur award will support strategies that improve the city’s ability to match defendants to appropriate interventions.
Philadelphia has succeeded in launching several citywide collaborations aimed at reducing its jail population and improving the criminal justice system overall. The District Attorney’s Office joined with the Defender Association of Philadelphia and First Judicial District of Pennsylvania to build a program that provides diversion from traditional prosecution for non-violent offenders. Philadelphia has also established the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition, a broad coalition of leaders that are working together to reduce recidivism, which includes not only government agencies, but also advocates and service providers. To continue building on these past reform efforts, Philadelphia was awarded $3.5 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016 to invest in strategies that will safely reduce the average daily jail population over the next three years.
Despite recent system improvements and a steady reduction in the jail population, Philadelphia still has the highest incarceration rate of any large jurisdiction in the country. To address its overreliance on jails, Philadelphia will implement a range of strategies that will limit jail admissions, reduce case processing times, increase pretrial supervision and services, and reduce its reliance on cash bail. The city will also create new opportunities for the diversion of individuals who are a low risk to public safety, as determined by a new needs assessment tool. These individuals will be supervised through community-based alternatives to jail. In addition, the city will develop an auditing process to better track racial and ethnic disparities in the system, while also carrying out an implicit and explicit bias training program for employees in all of the criminal justice system agencies.
Pima County, AZ
A major commercial and academic hub, Pima County is home to Tucson, the second largest city in Arizona. The county is approximately 9,200 square miles and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas of the United States. Its population, which has nearly tripled since 1970 and is projected to reach 1.4 million by 2041, is almost one third Hispanic.
Pima County leadership has engaged in a series of successful collaborations in pursuit of local justice reform, such as the recent creation of a Crisis Response Center and Behavioral Health Pavilion to provide integrated care to those experiencing behavioral health crises and help them avoid unnecessary incarceration, as well as a Sheriff’s Department Mental Health Investigative Support Team to coordinate responses with Pima County Behavioral Health and other law enforcement agencies. In addition, the county has spearheaded jail re-entry strategies and instituted programs to assess a defendant’s risk to reoffend and target specific interventions for medium-to-high-risk inmates. To continue building on past reform efforts, Pima County was awarded $1.5 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016 to invest in strategies that will further reduce the average daily jail population over the next three years.
The county will seek to safely reduce its jail population through: risk screening for all misdemeanor defendants in order to increase post-booking releases from jail; diverting nonviolent individuals with substance abuse or mental health issues to post-booking treatment instead of jail; an enhanced automated call, text and email court-date reminder system that is expected to reduce failure to appear rates; and detention alternatives made possible through electronic monitoring technology.
St. Louis County, MO
The St. Louis County jail—like jails across the country—is full. County officials recognize that it doesn’t need to be. About 92 percent of the jail population is on pretrial detention or awaiting a hearing on a probation violation. The county has identified a groundbreaking approach to cut the number of inmates in the county jail by 15-19 percent while improving public safety. Instead of sitting in jail, these people will be productive members of the community.
The key elements of this unique approach include:
Expanding a pretrial release program for carefully screened individuals;
Implementing a speedy hearing process for those with technical probation violations; and,
Helping municipal courts promote better understanding of procedures and easier access to court information for defendants
The University of Missouri-St. Louis has led the collection of information and data analysis instrumental in the development of these programs. The University has also shared its expertise in procedural justice. Many of the programs have been piloted and have shown promising results. To continue building on past reform efforts, St. Louis County was awarded $2.25 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016 to invest in these and other steps to further reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.
This work will result in evidence-based, gender responsive practices that can be used as models across the country.
Spokane County, WA
Spokane County in Eastern Washington is the home of Spokane, the state’s second-largest city, and is a business and trade center for a vast area east of the Cascade Mountains. The county has experienced a 40% increase in population since 1981.
Spokane County Detention Services operates the county jail, and along with the Office of the Criminal Justice Administrator, is the lead agency for the Safety and Justice Challenge work. Since 2012, as part of a broad effort to implement the recommendations of a city and county-commissioned “Blueprint for Reform,” Detention Services has been working with members of a multi-stakeholder Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council to improve services and increase efficiencies across law enforcement, courts, and corrections. To continue building on past reform efforts, Spokane County was awarded $1.75 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016 to invest in strategies that will further reduce the average daily jail population over the next three years.
The long term vision behind the county’s reform plan is to create a local justice system—starting at the point of arrest all the way through community supervision—that places a greater focus on risk and needs, rather than the offense. This will include: 1) an increased focus on risk assessment, community supervision and treatment; 2) new prosecutor diversion alternatives; 3) improved jail-based mental health intervention; and 4) measures to reduce racial and ethnic disparities. For example, the county will create and apply a Racial Equity Toolkit, which will identify root causes and factors that result in racial or social inequities in the system, such as bias in process, lack of access, or barriers that result in disparate impacts. In addition, the county will help reduce admissions and length of stay for people in jail who are affected by serious mental illness by adding mental health professionals and social workers who will help coordinate services with the courts, provide quicker linkage to community services and housing, and note cases back before the court expeditiously for release review.
The State of Conneticut
One of a handful of states that operate jails in lieu of local authorities, Connecticut has implemented a number of jail-related reforms, including programs to divert the mentally ill from jail through a community-based release plan, and to help defendants post bail. Under the leadership of Governor Dannel Malloy, the prison population in Connecticut has declined significantly while crime has dropped to a 40-year low. To continue building on past reform efforts, Connecticut was awarded $2.5 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2016 to invest in innovative and commonsense strategies to further reduce the average daily jail population over the next two years.
To address the overuse of jails in Connecticut, the state will implement initiatives in the three largest cities which have the highest rates of custodial arrests and concentration of communities of color: Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven. To address racial disparities in the criminal justice system, the state will expand implicit bias training in all three cities and will undergo an evaluation of current racial and ethnic disparities to establish a baseline for improvement. The Hartford Alternative to Arrest Project will provide alternatives for individuals with mental health, substance abuse, and housing needs, and is anticipated to help 800 individuals avoid jail over the next two years. Additionally, the state will expand its Jail Diversion Substance Abuse program to provide an additional 95 defendants with access to court-based diversion to detox and residential treatment to avoid pretrial detention.