Are Your Justice Costs Soaring?
The criminal justice proportion of most general funds has been steadily increasing over the last decade, and many managers fear that justice-related costs are spiraling out of control. The good news is that there are ways of managing both the system and the costs. ILPP's recent studies have saved counties up to $15 million in annual system operating costs, while enhancing public safety.
ILPP's unique approach examines the interaction between all justice agencies in the criminal justice system to determine ways each could increase efficiency in the overall system. The sum of these changes produces results that resolve problematic issues such as jail crowding, court delays, and congested programs and services.
Our studies generally pay for themselves within the first year from the cost avoidance they generate.
Criminal Justice System Assessment: The Key Issues
Examining the Justice System as a Single Unit
Any justice system is comprised of numerous agencies, the three main ones being law enforcement, detention, and courts. These functions are funded by different jurisdictions, report to different supervising agencies, and often have little horizontal integration. This situation can result in huge inefficiencies. To make effective decisions, you need to understand not only how each individual agency is operating, but how the system works as a whole.
Getting Agency Heads to "Play Ball"
Most common problems in county justice systems are caused by, and affect, the whole system. Jail overcrowding is a prime example, as inmates come in through law enforcement agencies and go out through the courts. The jail population is greatly affected by the decisions of non-detention agencies. It is therefore essential but often difficult to get agencies to understand that they're all on the same team. Old rivalries and turf make this transition difficult. ILPP's staff is particularly effective at helping with team-building issues.
Getting Control of Department Budgets
The County Administrator must review the budgets for all of the criminal justice agencies in the county - the Sheriff, the jail, the prosecutor and public defender, the courts, probation - without being able to exercise much control over the elected officials heading those agencies. In some jurisdictions they are not even county employees, but are state officials. In most counties, each agency prepares its budget with no consideration of the other departments' budgets, yet all share a common workload. If the agencies can work together to process this workload more efficiently, the county will save overall.
Expediting Case Resolution to Reduce Court Costs
The longer it takes for each case to make its way through the court system, the more expensive it is. If the defendant is held in custody, detention costs are added to court costs. Clear, early communication between court, prosecution, and defense can result in much faster case resolution and fewer costs.
Reducing Detention Costs
There are a number of issues that drive up detention costs, including inefficient building configurations that require higher staffing levels. Pretrial individuals are often detained unnecessarily because jurisdictions have no standard protocol for release. A public-safety-based release protocol requires exchange of information and cooperation between all the agencies concerned: law enforcement, detention, defendant's attorney, prosecution, and the courts.
Maintaining Public Safety
It is essential that jails detain all truly dangerous individuals. Unfortunately, indiscriminate detention can actually reduce public safety by eliminating the ability to screen and detain these individuals. Jails that operate under court-imposed caps are often forced to release inmates according to length of time in detention rather than according to severity of offense or other public safety criteria.