Location: SCR 352
National Perspective on State Policies Affecting Local Jails
COUNTY COURTHOUSE AND COUNTY JAIL FUNDING AND OVERCROWDING SOLUTIONS
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10:52 AM -- National Perspective on State Policies Affecting Local Jails
Amber Widgery, National Conference of State Legislatures, discussed front-end programs and legislation to avoid jail overcrowding . She explained who is in jail and for what reason, including the high number of inmates with mental health issues and co-occuring substance use disorders. She first discussed "deflection" models, which refer citizens to community human services instead of the criminal justice system and thus bypass an arrest or charge. Deflection laws have primarily focused on substance abuse but are starting to be used for mental health needs as well. She also noted that 27 states require police officers to receive mental health response training. Other front end laws include Good Samaritan or 911 immunity laws, which prohibit arrest when calling 911 to report an overdose.
Ms. Widgery further discussed pre-trial services, specialized courts, and diversion programs. She reported that Colorado is moving toward a risk-based method of assessing pre-trial release. Other states are providing legislative guidance concerning least restrictive conditions and are limiting the court's ability to impose financial conditions as a condition of pre-trial release. Some states, such as Kentucky, provide state assistance to counties to establish pre-trial programs and have included components such as medication assisted treatment. She answered questions about failure to appear rates, pre-trial detainees, risk assessments, and reminder calls. She mentioned that Jefferson County has completed a pilot study regarding the effectiveness of reminder calls.
Allison Lawrence, National Conference of State Legislatures, discussed programs and legislation concerning convicted inmates in jail. These inmates include those serving sentences, state DOC inmates and parolees, federal inmates, and those awaiting transfer to a mental health facility. She discussed state reimbursement rates nationwide and reported there is a wide array of state law and policy regarding this topic. She noted that some states have addressed time limitations and others have created tiered reimbursement systems based on factors such as treatment availability.
Ms. Lawrence also provided examples of states that have used performance incentive funding for counties that successfully supervise justice involved individuals in the community. Other states have capped the amount of time a probationer or parolee may spend in jail for a violating a condition of supervision. Further, some states have time restrictions on hearings and utilize electronic sentencing orders to expedite matters. She mentioned a safety and justice grant that Adams and Mesa Counties received from the MacArthur Foundation. These grants encourage experimental ways to reduce the jail population, and participating counties receive specialized assistance in collecting data and program evaluation. Medicaid's application to jail inmates was also addressed. She explained that statutory authorization is not needed to pursue Medicaid reimbursements, but some states have passed laws or regulations to assist with logistics and coordination.
A copy of the material presented by NCSL staff was made available to the committee (Attachment F).