Archive for August, 2018

Action Plan To Implement ‘Data-Driven Justice’

August 25th, 2018 Comments off

Potter County has made a commitment to implement “Data-Driven Justice.” The process began with the Board of Commissioners enrolling in the national initiative. That was followed by the Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) adopting DDJ as part of its 2018 strategic plan. Most recently, the national DDJ organization has taken a particular interest in the county’s efforts, raising the prospects of Potter County becoming a rural pilot project to implement DDJ. County officials are now developing a strategic plan to implement DDJ.

As CJAB has recognized, the effective collection and analysis of data can guide decision-making for both the implementation of criminal justice, and the wise use of the county’s limited financial resources. The plan will require consistent communication and collaboration to meet the DDJ objectives. The process will follow this sequence:

  • Phase 1: Research other counties’ experiences in successfully implementing data collection and analysis.
  • Phase 2: Determine how this data could benefit Potter County through: (a.) a review of current practices; (b.) an assessment of needs and potential applications through close engagement with the county’s criminal justice system — judiciary, district attorney/law enforcement, public defender, jail administration, human services and others.
  • Phase 3: Investigate DDJ support systems now operating in other counties, focusing on software and administration; operational and information-sharing/privacy issues; logistical challenges, and other considerations
  • Phase 4: Review goals of DDJ implementation – i.e., the options as identified through Phases 1, 2 and 3 — for consensus support among all affected parties.
  • Phase 5: Present recommendation to Potter County Board of Commissioners for acquisition and implementation of the data collection and analysis plan.

What is Data-Driven Justice?

Every year, more than 11 million people move through America’s 3,100 local jails, many on low-level, non-violent misdemeanors. The average length of stay is 23 days and 95 percent of the cases are resolved at the local level without a prison sentence. On any given day, more than 450,000 people are held in jail before trial, even though they have not been convicted of a crime. Research shows that even a short stay in jail can impact a person’s health, job and family stability, and can also increase the likelihood that he or she will commit future crimes. The costs of administering local criminal justice systems are significant, both in terms of actual dollars to taxpayers and in the disruptive impact of incarceration on children, families and communities.

Counties, cities and states that have joined the DDJ initiative are developing strategies to address two key populations that drive jail populations:

  • “Frequent utilizers” who are often individuals with mental illness, substance abuse and health problems who repeatedly cycle through multiple systems, including jails, hospital emergency rooms, shelters and other services; and
  • People held in jail before trial because they cannot afford to bond out, not because they are a risk to the community or a risk of flight.

These populations represent an opportunity for targeted, resource-saving interventions since they comprise a significant percentage of many jail populations. New innovations demonstrate that finding better alternatives to jail for individuals in these categories can not only save resources, but also help stabilize families and better serve communities. There are multiple resources available online for those who want to learn more. One of the most informative websites is

Potter County Moving Forward With ‘Stepping Up’

August 8th, 2018 Comments off

stepupPotter County has renewed its commitment to the national Stepping Up Initiative, a comprehensive plan to reduce the number of mentally ill men and women behind bars. Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover approved the required resolution last year. Since that time, the Potter County Criminal Justice Advisory Board has adopted Stepping Up as a top priority. A planning team has been meeting to guide the process.

Counties have been forced into the position of having to provide treatment services to people with serious mental illnesses booked in county jails. Prevalence rates of serious mental illnesses in jails are three to six times higher than for the general population. Adults with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and, upon release, are at a higher risk of recidivism than people without these disorders. County jails spend two to three times more on adults with mental illnesses that require interventions compared to those without these treatment needs. Without the appropriate treatment and services, many people with mental illnesses continue to cycle through the criminal justice system, often resulting in tragic outcomes for these individuals and their families.

smart_justice_logo_1Potter County has developed a DUI Treatment Court, Drug Treatment Court and a pilot Pre-trial Diversion Program which helps people stay out of jail by offering alcohol/substance use disorder treatment and related services. Almost three-quarters of adults with serious mental illnesses in jails have co-occurring substance use disorders. Through Stepping Up, the National Association of Counties, Council of State Governments Justice Center, National Sheriffs Association, and American Psychiatric Association are encouraging public, private and non-profit partners to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jails. Potter County has pledged its participation through the following strategy:

  • Convene or draw on a diverse team of leaders and decision-makers from multiple agencies committed to safely reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails.
  • Collect and review prevalence numbers and assess individuals’ needs to better identify adults entering jails with mental illnesses and their recidivism risk, and use that baseline information to guide decision-making at the system, program, and case levels.
  • Examine treatment and service capacity to determine which programs and services are available in the county for people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders, and identify state and local policy and funding barriers to minimizing contact with the justice system and providing treatment and supports in the community.
  • Develop a plan with measurable outcomes that draws on the jail assessment and prevalence data and the examination of available treatment and service capacity, while considering identified barriers.
  • Implement research-based approaches that advance the plan.
  • Create a process to track progress using data and information systems, and to report on successes.

Stepping Up does not require the establishment of a separate Mental Health Court, but rather can be implemented in a manner that complements the DUI/Drug Treatment Courts. Grants are available to support counties that commit to Stepping Up and could cover any added expenses, such as staffing, treatment or administration. Details on Stepping Up are available on the website,