Florida Association of Counties
Using Existing Resources to Reduce Jail Population
2015 FAC Legislative Conference - Public Safety Committee
Florida’s counties play a central role in the criminal justice system by providing significant funding for courts and jails. In recent years it has become increasingly evident that in order to reduce the costs and more effectively address the needs of its citizens, counties must address the huge toll that mental health and substance abuse issues take on the criminal justice system. While some State and Federal funds have been made available, the responsibility remains on local governments to maximize the existing revenues. As more and more research shows that mass criminalization of mental health and substance abuse victims can be counter-productive and often more expensive local governments much reassess existing systems and consider alternatives to long-term incarceration of these individuals. Solutions such as greater utilization of crisis intervention training can help law enforcement provide alternative services to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and avoid booking those individuals into jail. Problem-solving courts specifically address problems within at-risk populations, such as mental health sufferers, individuals which a history of substance abuse, veterans, and juveniles. These courts typically offer services rather than punishment which can decrease the odds that an individual recidivates.
Removing low-risk and non-violent offenders from jails can also reduce the overall population with little threat to public safety. Adult civil citations provide an alternative to arrest that prevents a defendant from entering into jail and also does not result in a criminal arrest record, which results in cost-savings to the public with better outcomes for the offender. For those individuals that are arrested, better risk-assessment can mean that defendants who are determined to be non-violent and have a high likelihood of returning for trial can be released with bond or on their own recognizance. Allowing such defendants to remain in the community pending trial can substantially reduce jail costs.
Crisis Intervention Teams
Florida’s Crisis Intervention Team program provides training for law enforcement officers and other first responders to allow them to better identify and address individuals suffering from a critical mental health or substance abuse episode. The program focuses on partnering first responders with local mental health providers to divert those individuals from the criminal justice system and into the mental health or substance abuse treatments system.
In 2015, the Florida Legislature authorized $750,000 for the Florida Sheriff’s Association to enhance Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement and correctional officers in local sheriff’s offices and police departments. These efforts will be concentrated on agencies that have conducted minimal or no CIT training. The first trainings will be held in November 2015 and will serve law enforcement officers from Baker, Union, Bradford, and Lake counties.
Problem Solving Courts
Florida’s Office of the State Courts Administrator maintains a comprehensive website related to the various problem-solving courts in Florida, as well as information on the case management system available at no cost to problem-solving courts.
Adult Civil Citation Programs
Adoption of adult civil citation programs is intended to prevent low-level non-violent offenders from spending time in jail for their offenses. The results are lower jail populations with more successful outcomes for the offender and less recidivism. Several Florida jurisdictions have created civil citation programs including Leon, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties.
Pretrial Risk Assessment
Pretrial Risk Assessment tools help judges determine whether a defendant should be released or detained before trial potentially leading to more effective identification of defendants who pose a low risk of failing to appear for court and who do not pose a threat to public safety. While reducing jail costs, pre-trial release also allows a defendant can return to the community, and his or her job and support system.
The National Center for State Courts has a complete list of available tools and service providers available on the website of the Pretrial Justice Center for Courts. This list includes the Public Safety Assessment- Court tool developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which plans soon make it widely available for free.
For more information regarding research and data provided by the association please contact our Legislative Analyst, Orlando Garcia
Problem Solving Courts