Los Angeles County, CA

Summary

Los Angeles County operates the world’s largest jail system, and despite an incarceration rate well below the national average, the system is critically overcrowded. In order to address this the county has undertaken several initiatives intended to divert lower-risk offenders with substance abuse and mental health issues, including: the creation of an Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR); the launch of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) pre-booking diversion program for drug offenders; the opening of an alternative destination to jail and hospital emergency departments for chronically inebriated individuals; the implementation of a screening process to reduce time in jail awaiting trial; and a Community Reentry Resource Center to assist jail inmates transitioning back into the community.

To build on past efforts, Los Angeles County was awarded $350,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2017 to implement strategies that address the main drivers of the local jail population. The county plans to implement strategies aimed at expanding non-jail options for lower-risk offenders and meeting the needs of those who cycle between medical and/or mental health facilities and custody environments, with a focus on the homeless population. This will include selecting and developing a validated risk assessment tool for release evaluation of pretrial defendants and expanding the collaborative Mental Evaluation Teams (MET) which divert mentally ill individuals to community treatment programs. Additionally, Los Angeles County has partnered with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office through the City Attorney’s criminal justice reform-based Neighborhood Justice Program (NJP). NJP diverts certain offenders away from the criminal justice system through restorative justice approaches to reduce over incarceration and impact recidivism rates.     

  • Individuals with mental health issues are overrepresented in Los Angeles County jails and in need of alternative services and community-based options. In 2016, 25% of the inmate population was receiving some level of mental health treatment.
  • Los Angeles County jails are critically overcrowded and inmates with mental health issues are often too ill to be safely housed in a multi-person cell, causing further crowding in general population housing areas.
  • Approximately 40% of the inmate population was comprised of pre-trial inmates; those awaiting trial or sentencing. The partially sentenced population, those who were sentenced on one or more cases and maintained open charges in another case(s), made up approximately 20% of the overall population. This leaves very little jail capacity to hold people actually convicted of criminal activity and hampers in-custody rehabilitative efforts.
  • The sentenced population was split between inmates traditionally sentenced to county jail time (approximately 12%) and those sentenced to county jail under State Prison Realignment- AB109 (approximately 19%). On average 524 inmates, approximately 3% of the population, were housed awaiting transfer to the California Department of Corrections.
  • Implement new strategies aimed at expanding non-jail options for lower-risk offenders and meeting the needs of those who cycle between medical and/or mental health facilities and custody environments, with a focus on the homeless population.
  • Selecting and developing a validated risk assessment tool for release evaluation of pretrial defendants.
  • Expanding the collaborative Mental Evaluation Teams (MET) which divert mentally ill individuals to community treatment programs.
  • Emphasizing community-level engagement and decision making within the justice system through the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Neighborhood Justice Program (NJP). NJP’s goals are to divert certain offenders away from the criminal justice system; engage members of communities where the offenses occurred in determining offenders’ obligations to victims and neighborhoods; and provide interventions to turn around offenders’ lives and reduce recidivism.

Supported with $350,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge, Los Angeles County will implement forward-looking, smart solutions, to provide alternatives to incarceration.

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