2015 OJCP Award Recipients
Below are the Outstanding Criminal Justice Program award winners for 2015. Click below to view more information about:
Northeast Region: The Bronx Freedom Fund
Southern Region: NOLA FOR LIFE
Midwestern Region: Adult Redeploy Illinois
Western Region: Williamson County Sheriff’s Crisis Intervention Team
Tribal Region: Turtle Mountain Sex Offender Registry Program
The Bronx Freedom Fund
The Bronx Freedom Fund seeks to help needy individuals charged with low-level offenses avoid the collateral consequences of pretrial incarceration. The Fund provides direct bail assistance to clients of the Bronx Defenders whose families cannot afford to pay their bail. Since even a short jail stay can have devastating consequences on families, employment, housing, child custody and more, the Bronx Freedom Fund alleviates the pressure many offenders feel to plead guilty in order to be released from jail. To be eligible for the program, clients must be charged with a misdemeanor, their bail must be under $2,000, and they must have a criminal justice agency recommendation for release, steady employment, ties to the community, family involvement, and a history of court appearances. The Freedom Fund pays bail immediately after arraignment which allows clients to fight their cases from a position of stability and support and also saves the city transport, medical examination and intake costs. While each client’s case is pending, the Freedom Fund maintains regular contact with its clients and works with attorneys and social workers to ensure that clients are receiving the services they need. When a client’s case is dismissed and they have attended all of their court dates, the bail money goes back into the bail fund. Ninety-five percent of the money cycles back into the fund making it highly sustainable with minimal losses. The Freedom Fund also collects and analyzes data on bail setting practices within Bronx Criminal Court to advocate for more fair bail setting practices, especially the use of alternative forms of bail.
Since October 2013, the Bronx Freedom Fund has helped almost 250 people, and 97 percent have returned for every scheduled court appearance. On average, the Freedom Fund posts $768 in bail per client and each case lasts about four and a half months. Moreover, 56 percent of all Bronx Freedom Fund cases resolved with a dismissal of all charges, 20 percent ended with a non-criminal disposition and in the 10 percent of cases in which clients plead guilty to a misdemeanor, no clients were sentenced to jail time.
The Freedom Fund received its original funding from the Flom Family Foundation. Due to the revolving nature of the funds, much of the funding still comes from this initial grant. Additionally, funding also comes through private foundations and individual donor.
NOLA FOR LIFE
NOLA FOR LIFE was created in 2012 in response to New Orleans’ historically high murder rate. The program takes a holistic approach to solving violence and is composed of five main initiatives categories: Stop the Shootings, Invest in Prevention, Promote Jobs and Opportunity, Get Involved and Rebuild Neighborhoods, and Strengthen the New Orleans Police Department. NOLA FOR LIFE’s strategy has been implemented cross-departmentally and in collaboration with state and local law enforcement, schools, and faith-based and community organizations. The program uses a data-driven strategy that takes a public health approach to violence reduction.
NOLA FOR LIFE works with 13 law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, over 10 city departments, and over 100 community-based organizations. New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) data show that 2014 saw the fewest number of murders in 43 years, continuing a three-year downward trend since the launch of NOLA FOR LIFE.
NOLA FOR LIFE has worked with the NOPD to enhance relationships between youth and law enforcement, including training on juvenile justice and childhood exposure to violence. These trainings have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a means for promoting best policing practices and improving outcomes for children. The program was also awarded the City Livability Award by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2014 and recognized in 2015 as a Bright Idea winner by Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
The strategy was developed by the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, initially funded through a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, in collaboration with the New Orleans Police Department, Health Department and other City departments and agencies. In partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Mayor’s office established the NOLA FOR LIFE Fund as a way for private and individual donors to support the program. The Fund awards grants to local organizations to help them serve high risk individuals in their communities.
Adult Redeploy Illinois
Adult Redeploy Illinois (ARI) works with local communities to reduce the number of non-violent offenders sent to the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and provides financial incentives for the establishment of local evidence-based services. With state funding and technical assistance, ARI builds local capacity in community-based supervision and services that are not only less expensive but also more effective in dealing with non-violent offenders. In exchange for grant funding, jurisdictions (counties, groups of counties, judicial circuits) agree to reduce by 25 percent the number of non-violent offenders sent to IDOC from a defined target population.
Counties interested in ARI are eligible to receive up to $30,000 in planning grants to bring together community stakeholders, analyze data, and develop a plan to address gaps in the current system. These counties can then submit a proposal to implement the plan and become an ARI site. ARI sites are required to report on a variety of performance measures to ensure that they are meeting the program goals. Sites having trouble meeting these standards are provided with technical assistance. Additionally, state-employed site monitors collect information in the field in order to identify both common problems and best practices.
Adult Redeploy Illinois began in 2010 and has grown from five pilot sites in five counties to 22 sites operating 24 diversion programs across 39 counties. The program operates in both rural and urban areas, demonstrating its success and flexibility in allowing local jurisdictions to implement ARI to meet local needs. The program was initially funded with a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant. Beginning in 2013, ARI began receiving state funding through the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), which also provides research support to the program.
Each individual diverted through ARI represents significant cost savings. An average annual ARI intervention costs about $4,400 per person per year while the average incarceration cost per person is $21,500 a year. From 2011-2014, ARI sites diverted more than 2,100 offenders from IDOC, resulting in an estimated savings of $46.5 million in correctional costs. The first process evaluation conducted by ICJIA of the ARI program in DuPage County (one of the five pilot sites) found that their program had far exceeded the reduction goal of 25 percent and resulted in significant cost savings.
Williamson County Sheriff’s Crisis Intervention Team
The Williamson County (TX) Sheriff’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) works to protect the rights of the mentally ill, assists individuals in crisis, and diverts mentally ill individuals from hospital emergency rooms and the criminal justice system, whenever possible. The specialized team is composed of nine mental health officers, a sergeant, and a lieutenant who deal exclusively with mental health calls throughout the county. The team is housed in a separate location from other Sheriff’s officers, has unmarked cars, and wears plain clothes in an attempt to eliminate the stigma often associated with mental illness. The CIT works collaboratively with local law enforcement agencies, schools, the justice system, and private medical and behavioral health hospitals.
The CIT members use de-escalation tactics instead of force. Team members have never used a firearm and have rarely used handcuffs or Tasers. In addition to facilitating the transfer of care, CIT deputies develop a rapport with individuals and families through follow-up visits in times of non-crisis. These visits help to provide information on resources and develop trust between families and this specialized mental health team. A family served wrote, “Until we were made aware of the CIT we had felt helpless, lost and completely alone in handling this mental illness. Thanks to the CIT, our daughter was able to get the treatment she needed and did not become another innocent lost in the system.” This community-based approach to law enforcement is aimed at preventing recidivism, while ensuring public safety for communities. The CIT also works closely with the county jail to ensure that those who cannot be diverted from the criminal justice system are safe and their mental health needs are met. In addition to its core program, CIT has a Veterans Outreach program to address the mental health needs of veterans returning from deployment.
Since its inception in 2005, the CIT program has diverted 4,444 people in crisis from the justice system and local emergency rooms, saving tax payers $10,653,000. During this time, the CIT has handled 42,020 mental health calls and were able to divert offenders nearly 11 percent of the time. In the last two years, 292 people were diverted from jail or local ERs, saving tax payers over $700,000. The program also assists mentally ill individuals with transportation to services. In the last two years CIT provided transportation to 376 people to help them access mental health treatment needed for their recovery.
The Williamson County CIT program has been funded by the Williamson County Commissioners Court as a part of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office for the last 10 years.
Turtle Mountain Sex Offender Registry Program
The goal of the Turtle Mountain Sex Offender Registry Program (TMSOR) is the registration of sex offenders that are identified by court action. Sex offenders are required to register in a digital database that is connected to the national registry. The registry contains personal information on each offender such as their home address, driver’s license, and car license plates. The national registry can be accessed by U.S. Marshalls and local police jurisdictions in order to assist them in sex offender management. Information collected by TMSOR is shared with the tribal community as well as local school and legal authorities. A TMSOR employee verifies all offender information through periodic home visits. TMSOR also participates in training and collaboration with the North Dakota Tribal SOR group, a group currently composed of five other tribes. The group came together for the purposes of networking and information sharing to ensure that all the tribes within North Dakota are up to date on the registration process and to share information on sex offenders entering or exiting tribal lands.
In 2013, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians awarded TMSOR a plaque for being the primary organization of the year. This award is given during the Tribe’s Family Week activities in acknowledgement of strong people and programs that positively impact the community and demonstrate the Tribe’s values of unity and strength.
In 2007, Chairman David Brien signed a resolution to opt into the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. As a result of this federal- tribal relationship, a program director (Sandra L. Belgarde) was hired in 2009 and the program began operating in 2010. TMSOR was initially funded through the Adam Walsh and Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) and has since been fully funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.