"Every 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. In local jails, 64 percent of people suffer from mental illness, 68 percent have a substance abuse disorder, and 44 percent suffer from chronic health problems."It's a revolving door, too. People bounce from jail to emergency room to homeless shelter and back to jail again. To combat this problem, President Obama has established something called the Data Driven Justice Initiative. Northampton County has decided to join this effort.
Executive John Brown and Corrections Director Dan Keen are most concerned about two types of inmates.
First are those with serious mental illness, substance abuse or chronic health problems. They repeatedly cycle through multiple systems, including jails, hospital emergency rooms and other services. Second are pretrial defendants who pose no threat to the community and are no flight risk, but are unable to afford bail. They are essentially jailed for being poor.
How does a data driven justice initiative work? Well, just as the Lehigh Valley Regional Crime Center relies upon millions of reports from police departments and jails, this data driven initiative adds health systems and social service agencies into the mix to identify persons who need help. Objective, data-driven, validated risk-assessment tools will identify low-risk defendants held in jail. Front-line responders will get equipment and training to de-escalate crisis situations.
Basically, the approach is to use technology to treat human beings like human beings, making the community safer in the process and saving tax dollars as well.
When this program was announced in late June, there were 67 participating communities. That number grows daily and now stands at over 100. On Monday alone, more than a dozen communities in Middlesex County, New Jersey, joined the Initiative.