Lucas County, OH

Summary

Lucas County, Ohio, is undergoing comprehensive criminal justice reform driven by elected officials, law enforcement, and community partners. With the support of a $1.75 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation awarded in 2016, the county has implemented a number of strategies to reduce reliance on jail and work towards a more fair and equitable justice system. To address racial disparity and underserved populations, collaborators expanded and enhanced a pretrial diversion program. Stakeholders throughout the criminal justice system received training on implicit bias, procedural justice, and community policing among other topics. A crisis de-escalation training program has helped law enforcement officers to better deflect individuals with behavioral health needs. Judges and court personnel began managing the confined population utilizing risk assessment tools and community-based resources such as electronic monitoring. A Population Review Team was created to conduct weekly case-by-case assessments of the pretrial population to identify and recommend individuals who are suitable for release or expedited case resolution. And, a regional team has convened to increase coordination among community corrections agencies.

Enhanced by the impact of policy and procedural changes, the Lucas County’s reform strategies have led to a 19% reduction of the average daily jail population since 2016, with positive impacts on both the sentenced population the pretrial population. As the county works to further reduce reliance on jail, with an additional $1.65 million grant from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2018, collaborators will not only incorporate the risk, but also the needs of individuals in the criminal justice system. For example, enhanced community-based behavioral health diversion resources will provide law enforcement with an appropriate alternative to booking, ensuring that fewer people with behavioral health needs are held in the jail. Case managers will collaborate with public defenders and incarcerated individuals experiencing mental illness, substance abuse, and/or homelessness who are charged with felony offenses, connecting clients with service providers and providing earlier opportunities for alternatives to prosecution. Finally, Lucas County will explore the potential for peer support to provide community connections and improve outcomes for those with criminal justice involvement so that fewer members of the community are caught in the repeating cycle of incarceration.

  • More than half of the individuals released from the jail have behavioral health needs. Low-level offenders represent 25% of the jail population, and African Americans make up 57% of those held in jail for the three most common misdemeanor charges.
  • African Americans make up 19% of the general county population, yet represent 58% of custodial arrests over the last five years.
  • Pretrial release options and case processing time impact average length of stay in jail
  • An estimated 32% of the sentenced jail population is incarcerated due to technical violations of probation.
  • Innovative crisis de-escalation processes for law enforcement will divert individuals with behavioral health needs into community-based services instead of jail, screen for behavioral health issues during booking, and expand access to a behavioral health urgent care resources
  • Expanded deflection and diversion opportunities for low-level offenses and continued law enforcement training on topics including implicit bias and procedural justice will reduce racial and ethnic disparities
  • Increased access to risk assessment scores will be used to inform who is in the jail and electronic monitoring will continue to be offered as a release alternative
  • A Population Review Team continues to address expedited case processing, and a collaboration between public defenders and case managers better connects those with felony charges to mental health, housing, and substance use resources
  • A coordinator will facilitate collaboration among probation authorities to achieve better outcomes for probationers, reducing violations resulting in a return to jail
  • Lucas County achieved a 22% reduction of the average daily jail population after two years of implementing strategies supported by the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge
  • Supported with an additional $1.65 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge, Lucas County aims to reduce their average daily jail population by 2-4% over the next two years

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