Lake County, Illinois

Summary

Lake County is located in northeastern Illinois and is the state’s third-most-populous county. The county has worked to improve the operation of the criminal justice system, including implementing strategies to divert and better serve individuals with behavioral health issues who were cycling through the system. As a result, the county has begun providing intensive case management to high utilizers of the Lake County Jail, including connecting individuals with services based on their needs upon release, with the goal of diverting the group of high utilizers from rearrest and reincarceration.

To build on past efforts, Lake County was awarded $700,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2018 to implement strategies that address the main drivers of the local jail population in the area, including unfair and ineffective practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people with mental health and substance abuse issues.

To continue reducing the jail population safely, the county plans to implement strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies and meeting the needs of those with behavioral health and substance abuse issues. These strategies include expansion of the Jail High Utilizers Program and enhanced services for people with mental illness or substance abuse issues who are involved with the justice system.

  • Despite the county’s below average crime and arrest rate, there is still an over-reliance on incarceration for low-risk, non-violent offenders.
  • According to a JFA Institute Study, pretrial defendants and behavioral health needs are main drivers of the Lake County jail population.
  • High utilizers of the jail have an average of 3.8 jail bookings per year.
  • As part of the county’s earlier reform efforts, 25 jail high utilizers received best practice assessments to identify their needs, including mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, chronic health conditions, and referrals to over 100 community resources.
  • To continue safely reducing the jail population, the county plans to implement strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies and disparities and meeting the needs of those with behavioral health and substance abuse issues.
  • Key strategies and initiatives to reduce the jail population and create a safer, more effective system include expansion of the Jail High Utilizers Program and enhanced services for people with mental illness or substance abuse issues who are involved with the justice system.

Supported with $700,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge, Lake County will implement forward-looking, smart solutions, to further reduce the local jail population by at least 10% over the next two years.

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