How 17 Localities Work To Cut Jail Populations Under “Justice Reinvestment”


Seventeen localities in the federally funded Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) analyzed the drivers of their jail populations and launched evidence-based solutions to improve public safety, cut costs, and reinvest the savings in high-performing public safety strategies, says the Urban Institute in interim findings released this week. In Milwaukee County, Wi., District Attorney John Chisholm leads a group that designed a pretrial diversion program for low-risk offenders. The program identifies and funnels eligible individuals into evidence-based community programs instead of processing cases as usual.

Milwaukee estimates that expansion of the program and similar deferred prosecution for moderate-risk offenders will decrease reliance on jail (freeing up almost 95,000 jail bed days over five years). The county could save $4.7 million that can be reinvested in these initiatives. Among other findings: Many people in Mecklenburg County, N.C., jailed for driving with a revoked license. The county is piloting a low-cost driver's license restoration clinic, staffed primarily by law students, to curb incarceration. In Delaware County, Oh., instead of convicting some drug offenders, will divert eligible individuals into treatment right away, eliminating delays that can reduce program efficacy. San Francisco is devising an early termination protocol for eligible probationers that will shorten the standard three-year supervision term, which may be unnecessarily lengthy in some cases.

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