Connecting state and local government leaders
Expecting facilities and agencies to run efficiently and cost effectively without sophisticated technology in today’s modern criminal justice system is simply unrealistic
Law enforcement and correctional agencies nationwide continue to face an era of fiscal austerity. They are tasked with meeting public safety standards with reduced resources while maintaining effective operations and the efficient use of public funding.
To address fiscal concerns, government IT leaders are increasingly considering the cloud to be a viable, secure, and greater cost-effective solution to better streamline operations and manage offenders. Cloud-based jail management solutions allow public sector employees to move beyond paper-based processes, simplify day-to-day operations, increase transparency and anticipate risks before they become problems.
America’s largest mental health facilities are often its local jails. A whopping 64 percent of people in local jails nationwide suffer from mental illness, while 68 percent have a substance abuse disorder, and 44 percent suffer from chronic health problems, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Thus, many prisoners receive fragmented and uncoordinated care at great cost to their well-being, with poor outcomes when they cycle repeatedly through local jails, emergency rooms and other public systems. Modern comprehensive jail management solutions, which bring information together across entire organizations can address diverting low-risk and mentally ill offenders and enable alternative pre-trial incarceration solutions.
To understand this problem even further, consider Florida’s Miami-Dade County, where less than 100 people with serious mental illness accounted for nearly $14 million in public services over four years, spending more than 39,000 days in either jail, emergency rooms, state hospitals, or psychiatric facilities throughout the region. Or Michigan, where the average inmate cost the state over $34,000 last year. In contrast, the annual cost of case management for mentally ill people in Michigan is only $2,165 per person. These are just two examples of how the right cloud implementation could make an immediate impact by reducing the costs associated with cycling the mentally ill through jails with no coordination between state or county facilities.
Additionally, on a near-daily basis nationwide, more than 450,000 people are held in jail before their trial, which translates to about 63 percent of the local jail population, despite not being convicted of a crime. A 2014 study of New York’s Rikers Island found that more than 86 percent of detained individuals were held on a bond of $500 or less. Meanwhile, the average cost of incarcerating a prisoner in America rivals yearly tuition and housing costs at most Ivy League universities. In other words, it’s cheaper to send a student to Princeton, than it is to send an offender to prison.
Despite advances in neuroscience and technology, our criminal justice system still largely prefers
incarceration as the default sentencing solution. This has resulted in an overcrowded, violent and costly criminal justice system that often ends in poor outcomes for nonviolent offenders.
There are initiatives in place that indicate change is coming. The White House recently launched the bipartisan, 67 city, county and state member Data-Driven Justice Initiative (DDJI). DDJI jail communities are working to utilize technology and open data to divert low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system and change approaches to pre-trial incarceration, so low-risk offenders no longer stay in jail simply because they can’t afford a bond.
Cloud-based technology solutions merge perfectly with the goals of the White House as they help to maintain capacity for jail population management with integrated policies such as prosecutors’ charge policies and legislation affecting sentence lengths or calculations. They also allow policymakers to model the impact of policy change on a jail’s population through dashboards and an actionable database. By implementing cloud-based technologies to replace legacy, ineffective, or rigid systems currently in place, jails, prisons and correctional facilities will be able to keep pace with changing regulations and position these agencies to stay ahead of future changes and new requirements.
That’s why expecting facilities and agencies to run efficiently and cost effectively without sophisticated technology in today’s modern criminal justice system is simply unrealistic. Despite being aware of the benefits of the cloud, investments in public sector cloud technology are still not widespread, especially in the corrections sphere. This can change if executives within the public sector who allocate taxpayer dollars better understand the benefits of the cloud. To comply with changing government regulations and make smart decisions in the best interest of both constituents and offenders, the time is now for public sector decision-makers to take action.
Josh Jaquish is the Vice President of Public Sector & Industry at Tribridge.