Prosecutor-Led Diversion Programs Lead to Reduced Incarceration, Re-Arrest

A study issued by the National Institute of Justice found that diversion programs benefit not only prosecutors, who save time, money and resources that could be spent on more serious cases, but also defendants, who avoid conviction and re-arrest.

Prosecutor-led diversion programs can lead to reduced conviction and incarceration, as well as reduced re-arrest rates, according to a study issued by the National Institute of Justice.

The study examined 16 prosecutor-led diversion programs in 11 jurisdictions across the country and conducted impact evaluations of five programs and cost evaluations of four programs.

Authors found that conviction rates among diversion and comparison cases were nine percent vs. 74 percent in Milwaukee’s Diversion program; 16 percent vs. 64 percent in Chittenden County’s Rapid Intervention Community Court (RICC), and three percent vs. 61 percent among felony defendants in Cook County’s Drug School.

Notably, all five programs also achieved at least some reduction in the use of jail sentences.

In recent years, a growing number of prosecutors have established pretrial diversion programs, either pre-filing—before charges are filed with the court—or post-filing—after the court process begins but before a disposition.

Participating defendants must complete assigned treatment, services, or other diversion requirements. If they do, the charges are typically dismissed, relieving the defendant of jail time and the latter consequences of a criminal record.

Diversion programs are beneficial not only to defendants, but to prosecutors as well, who save time, money and resources that could be allocated towards more serious and complex crimes, said the authors.

Now, prosecutor-led diversion programs are one of several increasingly popular “front-end” interventions targeting cases early in case processing, often before a case reaches the court, they noted.

“Our study confirmed a broader trend towards diverting cases to treatment or services at an extremely early juncture in criminal case processing,” the authors concluded.

Here are some of the other main findings in the study:

  • Case Outcomes: All five programs participating in impact evaluations (two in Cook County, two in Milwaukee, and one in Chittenden County, VT) reduced the likelihood of conviction — often by a sizable magnitude.  All five programs also reduced the likelihood of a jail sentence (significant in four and approaching significance in the fifth program).
  • Re-Arrest: Four of five programs reduced the likelihood of re-arrest at two years from program enrollment (with at least one statistically significant finding for three programs and at least one finding approaching significance in the fourth).  The fifth site did not change re-arrest outcomes.
  • Cost: All four programs whose investment costs were examined (two in Cook County and one each in Chittenden and San Francisco) produced sizable cost and resource savings.  Not surprisingly, savings were greatest in the two pre-filing programs examined, which do not entail any court processing for program completers.  All three programs whose output costs were examined (i.e., omitting the San Francisco site) also produced output savings, mainly stemming from less use of probation and jail sentences.

This study was implemented as a collaboration among the Center for Court Innovation, the RAND Corporation, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Police Foundation. A full copy of the report can be found here.

Megan Hadley is a staff writer with The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

IL Passes Bill To Help Pregnant Jail Inmates

The legislature sent a bill to Gov. Bruce Rauner that would reduce the likelihood that expectant mothers charged with nonviolent offenses will be jailed. The bill was drafted by a legislator who heard about a Chicago woman who gave birth in jail.

What started as a shouting match in a Chicago courtroom last year is now on the verge of shaping state policy for pregnant women in jail awaiting trial, the Chicago Tribune reports. The contentious case inspired a bill — passed last week by the Illinois House and Senate — that seeks to reduce the likelihood that expectant mothers charged with nonviolent offenses will be held in jail as they wait for their cases to be tried. The measure, which requires judges to hold additional hearings before ordering a pregnant woman held in jail, has reached Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk.  “This is commonsense and compassionate public policy, and I hope that (Rauner) signs it quickly,” said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who sponsored the bill.

Cassidy filed the bill after learning about a Chicago woman who gave birth in June while in jail. The woman, Karen Padilla, was seven months pregnant when Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford revoked her bond on a theft case after she was pulled over for a traffic violation and police noticed a warrant for her arrest. Eric Sussman, then second in command of the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, helped get Padilla released  and got into a shouting match with Ford. “Having three kids myself, I know it is a critical, critical period for a child to be with his or her mom,” said Sussman. “I was shocked that this was going on, particularly for a nonviolent, low-level offender who was essentially pulled over for having a nonfunctioning headlight.” The bill requires judges to find an alternative — such as electronic monitoring, placement in a drug-treatment facility or personal-recognizance release — for women likely to give birth while in custody. The Cook County jail housed more than 300 pregnant detainees between April 2016 and May 2017. Seventeen gave birth in custody.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Stop “Predatory Profit-Making’ in Jails, Urges NYC Coalition

Thirty criminal justice organizations demanded in a letter Friday that the city stop allowing private contractors to collect fees from inmate telephone calls, commissary purchases and vending machines.

A group of 30 criminal justice activist organizations urged New York’s City Council Friday to yank all programs that make money off of people in jail, reports the New York Daily News. Currently, the city collects cash from fees tied to inmate telephone calls, commissary buys, and vending machine purchases.

“The city should be acting to alleviate the economic impacts of incarceration, not exacerbate them through predatory profit-making arrangements with private contractors,” according to a letter from the coalition, signed by groups including the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Fortune Society and Urban Justice Center.

The groups say the city’s coming budget “projects millions in revenues to be generated through exorbitant fees to people in jail and their families.” That arrangement encourages the city to put people, primarily minorities, in jail, the group contends.

“These policies act as a tax that disproportionately affect people of color and are a prime example of the wealth extraction from targeted communities that drives economic inequality – one of the most serious problems facing our city today,” the group says.

It says the New York state prison system does not generate profits from phone calls made by prisoners “leaving ‘liberal’ New York City a step behind on progressive policy-making.”

Advocates say they support Intro 741, sponsored by Speaker Corey Johnson, which would eliminate fees for phone calls from City jails and any revenues the DOC collects on them.

In addition, advocates have objected to calls being recorded and shared with prosecutors without judicial warrants. Community contact is critical to those fighting criminal charges, yet those held pre-trial, the majority of whom are merely unable to pay bail, cannot safely maintain them over the phone, according to a press release.

For the smaller fraction of the population serving city sentences, calls are critical to strengthening the community ties that will help them successfully reenter society and avoid recidivism upon release. Whether a means of equality, efficacy, or dignity, speaking to loved ones should be encouraged not taxed.

“There are still other Department of Corrections revenues generated off incarcerated people and their communities. Asking critical questions of the Department of Corrections and demanding clear answers is the first step toward zeroing out profits generated in City jails and removing the economically perverse incentives that may promote incarceration over community solutions to public safety,” says the release.

from https://thecrimereport.org

D.C. Judge Demands Explanation of Wrongful Releases

Since last June, at least six inmates that courts ordered held in pending federal criminal cases in Washington, D.C., have been mistakenly released by the D.C. jail, returning only after they were rearrested or surrendered. A federal judge has summoned jail officials to explain how the mistakes happened.

A federal judge is demanding that Washington, D.C., officials appear in court this week to explain a spate of unauthorized early releases of inmates also facing federal charges, the Washington Post reports. The hearing before Judge Emmet Sullivan involves an inmate awaiting federal trial who was about to be set free despite a court order stating he posed a public safety threat. The court order also noted he had a pending charge for attempted murder in nearby Prince George’s County, Md.

Jarrell Harris, 23, remained behind bars despite the D.C. release plans, only because Prince George’s County police had placed a separate hold on him. Harris’s unauthorized release order was not an isolated event. Since June 1, at least five other inmates that courts ordered held in pending federal criminal cases in Washington have been mistakenly released by the D.C. jail, returning only after they were rearrested or surrendered, court records show. On Monday, a man accused in the fatal shooting of his 16-year-old girlfriend was rearrested, four days after he was released from custody. District officials said they were working to sort out what missteps led to that 18-year-old suspect’s transfer and release. The releases come amid a buildup of frustration among court and law enforcement officials over jail operations, a decade after high-profile mistakes led to lawsuits that cost taxpayers millions to settle.

from https://thecrimereport.org

25% More CA Inmates Getting Psychiatric Drugs

One-fifth of the county jail population in the state is being prescribed drugs for mental illness. “In many ways, the whole justice system is overwhelmed with mental illness,” says one expert.

The number of California inmates who’ve been prescribed psychiatric drugs has jumped about 25 percent in five years, Kaiser Health News reports.  These inmates now account for one-fifth of the state’s county jail population. The increase might reflect the growing number of inmates with mental illness, though it also might stem from better identification of people in need of treatment, say researchers from California Health Policy Strategies, a consulting firm. Amid a severe shortage of psychiatric beds and community-based treatment throughout the state and nation, jails have become repositories for people in the throes of acute mental health crises.

The number of people with mental illness in jails and prisons is “astronomical,” says Michael Romano of the Three Strikes & Justice Advocacy Project at Stanford Law School. “In many ways, the whole justice system is overwhelmed with mental illness.”  In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to reduce the prison population because of overcrowding that the judges said constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Three years later, a state proposition reclassified some felony crimes as misdemeanors. Taken together, that led to a huge influx of offenders going to county jails instead of state prisons. Far more people with mental illness are housed in jails and prisons than in psychiatric hospitals. Insufficient staff training and poor patient treatment have contributed to inmate suicides, self-mutilation, violence and other problems. One oft-cited complaint is that inmates have poor access to psychiatric prescriptions to treat such conditions as schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder. Jail officials in California say they are trying to identify incarcerated people who could benefit from such drugs. The numbers suggest the strategy may be working. An average of 13,776 inmates in the 45 California counties were on psychotropic medications in 2016-2017, up from 10,999 five years ago.

from https://thecrimereport.org

US Correctional Population Declines By 726,000

Summary The overall correctional population dropped by 726,000 since the peak year of 2007. There were 111,000 fewer people in prison since the peak year of 2009. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of the correctional population were supervised in the community. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of public relations […]

The post US Correctional Population Declines By 726,000 appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Summary The overall correctional population dropped by 726,000 since the peak year of 2007. There were 111,000 fewer people in prison since the peak year of 2009. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of the correctional population were supervised in the community. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of public relations […]

The post US Correctional Population Declines By 726,000 appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Phila. Officials Seek More Savings from Jail Inmate Drop

Philadelphia leaders have cut the city’s jail population by a striking 28 percent in two years, with help from a MacArthur Foundation grant. City Council officials and advocates want to know why costs have not fallen accordingly. Activists complain that criminal justice consumes one-fourth of the city’s budget.

Philadelphia leaders have cut the city’s jail population by a striking 28 percent in two years, with help from a MacArthur Foundation grant. City Council officials and advocates want to know why costs have not fallen accordingly, Philly.com reports. “I just can’t understand why the prison population’s going down and we’re not seeing some of the savings we should be seeing,” Councilwoman Cindy Bass said at a hearing on the Department of Prisons’ budget request, which was $256 million,  down 1.7 percent over two years. “If we were a business, we’d be out of business operating in this way.” The inmate population totals 5,359, compared with 7,400 inmates two years ago. Yet, the staff total remains the same. By Councilman Allan Domb’s calculations, the cost per inmate has ballooned from $43,902 to $66,661 in two years.

Outside City Hall, hundreds of demonstrators, including formerly incarcerated people, victims’ advocates, immigration activists and civil rights proponents, gathered for a May Day rally to protest what they call an excessive level of criminal justice spending. “Together, the police, the district attorney, the prisons, and the courts, their budgets amount to $1.1 billion. That’s more than a quarter of the entire city budget proposal,” said Kempis Songster, a recently released juvenile lifer. “Is there some other way we could spend that money? How about schools?” Philadelphia Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney said she has been able to find $11 million in savings from last year. The department reinvested some of that in hepatitis C testing, the creation of a new behavioral health transition unit, and medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. The city will close the decrepit, 91-year-old House of Correction by 2020. Once it is closed, Carney said, the department will be able to curtail overtime, which was $24 million in 2017.

from https://thecrimereport.org

MA Jail Experiments With Teaching Responsibility

Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice to create the People Achieving Change Together (PACT) program, based on a German model of prioritizing rehabilitation and resocialization of its inmates.

In Massachusetts, more than half of young adult men released from jails and prisons go back within three years. The state’s largest county wants to disrupt that cycle by teaching responsibility, reports NPR. In Billerica, a Boston suburb, a select group of inmates at the Middlesex House of Correction and Jail are part of the People Achieving Change Together (PACT), a program designed for 18- to 24-year-olds who want to make sure that this period of incarceration is their last. Inmates in PACT live on the prison’s top floor, where the unspoken rules of jail politics fall by the wayside. Inmates and corrections officers have more relaxed, friendly relationships. The floor has a barber shop, a library and a meditation room, and its cell doors stay open all day until 9 p.m. or later.

Assistant Deputy Superintendent Scott Chaput was initially skeptical of PACT, but but has seen significant positive changes. “I thought [the plan] was totally crazy,” he said. “Most of our discipline is with that age group … there’s fighting, just refusing to do things.” Tired of seeing the same people cycle in and out of his jail, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice. The institute cited Germany’s prison system, which for the last few decades has prioritized the rehabilitation and resocialization of its inmates. Koutoujian wanted to give this philosophy a try. PACT inmates take part in mandatory anger management meetings and sessions with therapists, and they report to work or class every day. They get more phone privileges and are permitted to sit with family during visits. “Everything about this unit is designed in a way to prepare them for re-entry by giving them some of the skill sets that they didn’t have and some of the introspection they never had,” Koutoujian said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Report Cites San Diego Sheriff for High Jail Suicide Rate

An investigation after 30 San Diego jail suicides since 2010 criticizes the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for not providing appropriate care for seriously mentally ill inmates, resulting in dozens of preventable suicides.

A new report on suicides in San Diego jails criticizes the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for not providing appropriate care for seriously mentally ill inmates, resulting in dozens of preventable suicides. Additional faults include poor supervision of at-risk inmates and lack of communication among staff, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The report was published by Disability Rights California, which has federal authority to investigate conditions in adult and juvenile detention facilities throughout the state. It’s the result of a years-long investigation that included a review of policies and incident reports and interviews with inmates, jail staff and correctional experts.

Since 2010, more than 30 inmates have killed themselves in county lockups. “We knew that those deaths were likely the tip of the iceberg and that they were evidence of systemic issues that required attention,” said the disability group’s Rebecca Cervenak. Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Karen Stubkjaer attributed a recent decline in suicides to improved training to identify at-risk inmates and provide them with appropriate services. The department brought on more mental health clinicians and introduced “enhanced observation units” where suicidal inmates could be closely monitored. The department is doing “psychological autopsies” of inmates who committed suicide to see if warning signs were missed. There has not been a consistent decline in suicide attempts. Eighty-two attempts were documented in 2015, 107 in 2016 and 73 between Jan. 1, 2017, and Sept. 11, 2017. “While we are convinced that the Sheriff’s Department has begun to take the issue of suicide prevention seriously, there remain many aspects of the system’s treatment of people at risk of suicide that require urgent action,” the report says.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Three Centuries of ‘Extreme Violence and Trauma’ at New Orleans Jail

A new report finds continued ‘horrific violence’ and racial disparity in New Orleans’ parish jail despite a 2013 DOJ consent decree. It argues the city’s racial inequities will not change without systemic reform in jail operation.

Improving conditions at New Orleans’ jail, recently renamed and rehoused in a new facility, the Orleans Justice Center, is a “prerequisite for eradicating inequity in the city,” according to a new report.

For three centuries, African Americans in have been detained in unsanitary cells, refused medical and dental care,” have been subjected to “extreme violence and trauma,” and have been exploited as a source of cheap labor, says the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law research paper, published in the March 2018 edition of The New Orleans Prosperity Index: Tricentennial Edition.

According to the paper, very little has changed—despite a 2013 consent decree between New Orleans and the Department of Justice that called for 173 reforms in jail conditions and administration.

Only 17 of those reforms had been enacted as of May 2017, the paper said, noting that the mortality rate for the Orleans Parish jail in 2017 was four times the national average. It added that many inmates “experience horrific violence by both other inmates and staff.”

Noting that in the first year of operating a new jail facility,  from 2015-2016, the paper cites figures showing at least 14 allegations of sexual assault, 412 inmate on inmate assaults, and 52 inmate assaults on staff.

“Violence is pervasive throughout the facility,” and the reform efforts have done little to meet the challenges of “operating a safe, humane, and constitutional jail” or address the extent to which jail conditions have contributed to racial inequality in the city, according to the report.

In 2005, African Americans comprised 90 percent of the jail population, despite constituting only 66 percent of the city’s population.  By May of 2016 the percentage of African Americans had only dropped to 81 percent.

“Improving jail conditions is a prerequisite for addressing inequality in New Orleans,” says the report by Andrea Armstrong, a law professor at Loyola.

The report, calls for a “systemic” strategy that gives the community a “direct role in the administration of the jail.”

The author focuses on one example of such an approach that she argues has had promising results.

The Community Advisory Group (CAG), created in 2017 after the MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge grant was awarded to the City of New Orleans, comprises 28 people from different neighborhoods around the city, including law enforcement professionals, the formerly incarcerated, and teachers.

The CAG’s mission is to pressure city officials to increase public safety “through reducing the jail population and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the New Orleans criminal legal system.”

Although the group’s mission is focused on devising strategies to reduce prison populations, the conditions of jails affect communities, and therefore public safety.

Independent oversight of jails and prisons is considered critical to effect lasting change in the jail, writes the author.

While community organizations such as the Orleans Parish Prison Coalition, Women with a Vision, and Voice of the Experienced have scored some achievements in pursuing New Orleans jail reform, no mechanism exists for them to hold city officials and the Sheriff accountable.

The CAG also has a platform to achieve its goals through “its three voting seats on the Jail Population Management Sub-committee of the New Orleans Criminal Justice Council.” The committee is chaired by the Mayor.

To succeed in reforming the New Orleans jail, leaders in the city government and criminal justice groups must strongly support the CAG and community engagement in the jail, writes the author.

Support of this kind could mean improved transparency of jail operations and data, and help develop a “public oversight entity staffed by the community.”

Reviewing the jail’s history, the report noted that inhumane conditions in the jail have existed since its original construction as Orleans Parish Prison in 1721.

In the 18th century, “the prison categorized, housed, and exploited suspected runaways; inflicted corporal punishment on recalcitrant slaves at their master’s request…and exploited slave and inmate labor to build the city.” The 1807 Regulations for the Police Prison provided financial incentive for the abuse of slaves, offering payment to jailers anytime they beat an enslaved prisoner.

The 20th century brought no real improvements. In the 1950’s, complaints of beatings by jail staff were reported in the dozens. From the 1960s to the 1990s, sexual assaults were rampant and the threat of attack unremitting. In the 1990s, the use of stun belts delivering 50,000 volts of electricity developed.

Many of New Orleans’ African American neighborhoods contain some of the highest concentrated incarceration rates, which can damage social and economic network, by contributing to, among other things, single-parent households and poverty.

Yet the parish jail is still violating the civil rights of citizens: in 2017, the Orleans Parish jail “housed an average of 1,586 people on a given day, of which 91 percent had not had a judge determine their guilt or innocence.”

The collateral consequences of jail detention on family relationships is felt more acutely in Louisiana than in other communities, the paper said.

Many of New Orleans’ African American neighborhoods contain some of the highest concentrated incarceration rates, which can damage social and economic networks by contributing to, among other things, single-parent households and poverty.

 

Yet the parish jail is still violating the civil rights of citizens: in 2017, the Orleans Parish jail “housed an average of 1,586 people on a given day, of which 91 percent had not had a judge determine their guilt or innocence.”

The full study, entitled “The Impact of 300 Years of Jail Conditions,” can be downloaded here.

This summary was prepared with notes from TCR news intern John Ramsey. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org