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Criminal Justice System Assessment in final stages, draft report available
Roughly 70 community members attended a community meeting in late October where CGL, consulting project director, and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc. (GOBHI), consulting project manager, presented a draft criminal justice system assessment report based upon on data collected over the course of 2018.
The assessment data includes quantitative information regarding policies, arrests, repeat offenders, offender needs, court and law enforcement capacity, and facilities. Qualitative information was gathered at community forums, focus groups, community workshops and from individual surveys. Evidence-based best practices, including the impact of social determinants of health and trauma informed care, were reviewed for utility in Benton County. Lastly, previously completed jail and courthouse reports and assessments were reviewed.
The draft report concludes the Benton County Justice System is under severe stress. Key stresses include: high rates of justice-involved individuals failing to appear at scheduled court dates; reliance on forced jail releases to access jail beds; a “revolving door” for chronic offenders; inadequate court facilities; lack of jail-based programs to address recidivism; and, inadequate facility space to deliver treatment programs (e.g., mental health and substance abuse treatment, education, cognitive behavioral therapy) or to implement a pre-trial release program.
The draft report recommends varied components to transform the current system into an effective, efficient and equitable criminal justice system that maintains public safety and accountability, while providing treatment opportunities that address underlying causes of criminal behavior.
The various components can be combined in a number of ways, but the report presents three scenarios. The “best practices” scenario is a balanced approach of prevention and treatment, plus accountability and rehabilitation components.
The “best practices” scenario includes a substantial increase in prevention and treatment, including an increase in community-based mental health and substance abuse treatment, increased transitional housing support, the construction of a new Respite Center and a new Sobering Center, and the creation of a new restorative justice program.
The other focus of the “best practices” scenario is establishing several new accountability and rehabilitation components, including pre-trial offender risk/needs assessment and electronic monitoring, the creation of a work release center, in-custody mental health and substance abuse treatment, in-custody cognitive behavioral therapy to address underlying criminogenic thinking and behaviors, and in-custody education and development courses.
All three scenarios in the draft report seek to reduce officers’ cite and release rates to 15% (currently around 33%), reduce the failure to appear at scheduled court dates to the national benchmark rate of 5% (currently around 15%), and construct a new jail and courthouse. The “best practices” scenario includes the construction of a new law enforcement center, which is the largest cost differential between the three scenarios.
Complete details are available in the draft report and the video recording of the community meeting: https://www.co.benton.or.us/criminaljustice/page/assessment-timeline.
The assessment occurred over four phases during 2018, with multiple opportunities to engage with the public. The primary purpose of the criminal justice system assessment is to:
- engage our communities & develop a common vision for the criminal justice system,
- investigate all aspects of the system to provide a full assessment,
- identify improvements to the system to better serve the public and inmates.
Presentation materials and video from previous community meetings and workshops are available online at https://www.co.benton.or.us/criminaljustice/page/assessment-timeline.
Community members that wish to receive assessment updates may sign up online at: https://www.co.benton.or.us/criminaljustice/page/stay-informed.