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.