Data-Driven Justice: Disrupting the Cycle of Incarceration
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 they 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.
Join the Initiative!
If your county or city is interested in participating in the initiative, please submit a letter committing to support the development of a smarter, more data-driven criminal justice system to firstname.lastname@example.org. A sample letter can be found here.
NACo Contact: Natalie Ortiz
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 chronically homeless 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. Many jurisdictions and organizations are taking action to advance these goals.