Data Can Help Fix America’s Overcrowded Jails, Says White House

An anonymous reader writes from a report via CNET: The White House launched a program called the Data-Driven Justice (DDJ) initiative to help reduce the population of jails. It will allow states to better divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system and keep low-risk defendants out of jail while they await trial. The DDJ program could help alleviate the cost and congestion facing many of America’s local jails, which costs local governments nearly $22 billion a year for minor offenses and low-level non-violent misdemeanors. Every year, 11 million people move through America’s local jails. In local jails, 64 percent of people suffer from mental illness, 68 percent have a substance abuse and 44 percent suffer from chronic health problems, according to the White House. Seven states and 60 communities committed to DDJ. The plan is to use data collected on individuals who are often in touch with the police, emergency departments and other services and link them to health, behavioral health and social services within the community. Law enforcement and first responders will also be trained in how to deal with people experiencing mental health issues to better direct them to the proper services. The administration is developing a toolkit that will guide jurisdictions toward the best practices, policies and programs that have been successful in DDJ communities. DDJ will also put in place pre-trial assessment tools to determine whether the individual can safely return to society while awaiting trial without having to post bond. Amazon Web Services is onboard with the project, planning to bring together data scientists, technologists, researchers and private sector collaborators in a Technology and Research Consortium to identify technology solutions and support DDJ communities. A mapping software company, Esri, has pledged half a million dollars worth of software and solutions to the DDJ communities as well. Meanwhile, AWS is providing the cloud-infrastructure, which should help share data between criminal justice and health care practitioners among DDJ communities.


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