(Chicago) – On June 30, the White House launched the Data-Driven Justice Initiative with a bipartisan coalition of 67 city, county, and state governments who have committed to using data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system. Coalition participants are changing approaches to pretrial incarceration so that people with lower-level charges no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond.
These innovative strategies, which have measurably reduced jail populations in several communities, help stabilize individuals and families, better serve communities, and often save money in the process.
“The Data-Driven Justice communities are leading by example by committing to adopt these proven strategies that reduce unnecessary arrests and incarceration. These approaches provide much needed stability to individuals and families, and make our communities stronger while saving taxpayer dollars,” said DJ Patil, U.S. Chief Data Scientist.
To help advance these efforts, TASC responded to the White House’s call to action and will provide telephone and on-site consulting to several jurisdictions within the coalition that are developing data-driven diversion practices.
“We are thrilled to be working with the White House and with partners across the country to support good diversion policies and practices, based on the evidence of what works,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez.
The DDJ communities will implement the following strategies that have proven to be effective in reducing unnecessary incarceration in jails:
- Use data to identify and proactively break the cycle of incarceration. DDJ communities will bring data together from across criminal justice and health systems to identify the individuals with the highest number of contacts with police, ambulance, emergency departments, and other services, and link them to health, behavioral health, and social services in the community, with a goal of reducing over-reliance on emergency healthcare and encounters with the criminal justice system.
- Equip law enforcement and first responders with the tools they need to respond and divert. Recognizing that police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and firefighters are often front-line responders to people experiencing mental health crises, DDJ communities will create systems and protocols to help effectively de-escalate crisis situations and safely divert people to the appropriate service providers instead of arresting them.
- Use data-driven, validated, pretrial risk assessment tools to inform pretrial release decisions. DDJ communities will work towards using objective, data-driven, validated risk-assessment tools to identify low-risk defendants held in jail and identify opportunities for their safe release.
“Just as the power of ‘big data’ is being used in the private sector to have greater insight and impact than ever before on their decision making, so too is it the right time for it be put to use by criminal justice decision makers for the same reasons,” said Jac Charlier, who directs training and consulting services for the Center for Health and Justice at TASC. “The vision of safer communities and our citizens leading better lives is very compelling.”
Each year, more than 11 million people move through America’s 3,100 local jails, many on low-level, non-violent misdemeanors, costing local governments approximately $22 billion a year.
Leveraging the opportunities of Medicaid expansion, TASC and its Center for Health and Justice have been working with local, state, and national partners to develop and implement strategies to safely divert people out of the justice system as early as possible.
Maureen McDonnell, who directs healthcare strategies for TASC and provides consulting services nationally, sees the tremendous advances possible through such diversion strategies.
“Through coordinated efforts taking place within jurisdictions across the country, millions of people with substance use and mental health disorders ultimately can be diverted away from the front end of the justice system and into appropriate care in the community,” she said. “This is a very exciting time.”