Anticipated outcomes include reduced incarceration rate, treatment for the mentally ill and taxpayer savings
ATLANTA — Fulton leaders concluded a four-month planning effort for Justice reform and reinvestment in the County Wednesday, July 20, 2016, and set the stage for operationalizing the implementation phase within the coming weeks. Fulton County Commissioners received Criminal Justice Reform Initiative recommendations to continue the County’s progress in developing and implementing system-wide reforms in the criminal justice system.
Several of the expected outcomes of the Initiative would include continued reduction of the number of inmates in the Fulton County Jail, treatment of the mentally ill, recidivism reduction and other system wide improvements in the criminal justice system
Over the course of four months, a steering committee under the leadership of Chairman John H. Eaves and Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan convened a series of meetings to develop a set of desired outcomes for the County’s justice system. The Steering Committee drafted a set of reform ideas that addresses the issues influencing the criminal justice system and its ability to improve outcomes. Following the drafting of the reform ideas, the Committee’s goal was to reach consensus about which ideas to implement in order to strengthen the system.
“Our jail is bursting at the seams, a majority of the inmates have mental health problems and our court system is overwhelmed with a backlog of cases, so this initiative is groundbreaking,” said Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves. “I’ve traveled to several other counties in the U.S. where criminal justice reforms are already in place and those counties have seen real results. Fulton County will also be a success story in the criminal justice arena.
Judge Tusan expressed her excitement about the plan. “I have enjoyed the opportunity to help lead this timely collaboration of Elected and Appointed Officials and the County Manager’s Executive Team aimed at adopting system-wide objectives for high performance and public accountability on behalf of the Fulton County Justice System. Over the past several months, we have engaged in earnest discussion of various best practices and justice system reforms and have already begun implementation. There is much work still ahead, but we are excited and energized by County commitment to strengthening our justice system.”
County Manager Dick Anderson applauded the intense collaboration that resulted in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. “We are excited about the potential of this groundbreaking initiative that will help us to ensure that ‘All People are Safe,’ which serves as one of the six major tenets of the Fulton County Strategic Plan.”
“The significance of the Justice Reform Initiative is more than just words on a page. We are making system changes that improve efficiency, reduce the length of inmate stays in the Fulton County Jail and ensure that mentally ill offenders do not languish in the jail instead of receiving appropriate treatment,” said Anna Roach, Chief Strategy Officer for Fulton County.
The six desired system-wide outcomes developed by the Justice Reinvestment Steering Committee include:
- Processing and resolution of criminal and civil court cases in a timely manner
- Detention or release of defendants in the most appropriate manner balancing public safety, court appearance compliance and cost while also continuing to reduce the jail population
- Individuals who commit criminal acts would be held accountable for their offense and do not re-offend once they are back in the community
- Individuals with mental illness who interact with the criminal justice system would receive humane and appropriate treatment to address their condition and maintain public safety
- Citizens who interact with the justice system believe that they are treated respectfully and fairly and that they are provided with timely, accurate information and services
- The justice system works cost-effectively as it strives to achieve the desired outcomes
Highlights of other proposed reforms within the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Initiative include the following:
- Improve coordination of accountability and problem-solving courts, which provide intensive services, supervision and support for defendants whose needs are critical
- Consolidate Superior, State and Magistrate courts to maximize administrative support and reduce duplication of services
- Establish written community transition plans for inmates with mental illness to help them to successfully reenter their communities
Reforms initiated through the Justice Reinvestment Recommendations could result in 4 to 8 million dollars in savings that will be available for reinvestment because of a lower jail population and unified court management.
In addition to Chairman Eaves and Chief Judge Gail Tusan, the Justice Reinvestment Steering Committee included elected and appointed officials from each of the Justice partners as well as key County executives, supported by an internal team of County employees.
The planning group also included an advisory board of community stakeholders and subject matter experts from Accenture, the Justice Management Institute, and the Morehouse School of Medicine.
Over the past ten years, Fulton County’s justice system has implemented a series of reforms including improved case management, monitoring of inmates awaiting trial, competency restoration programs, and anti-recidivism efforts. These efforts have made a significant impact, helping to reduce the jail’s average daily population by nearly 20% – from 3,097 inmates in 2005 to 2,505 inmates in 2014. Over the same period of time, both violent and property crime rates dropped by 6.3% and 9.1% respectively.
For more information about the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, visitwww.fultoncountyga.gov,
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