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Our top responsibility and goal is always to keep our citizens safe regardless of their circumstances or where they live,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. I’m truly excited about this partnership with the Arnold Foundation.” (Brian Bohannon/​The Associated Press)

New York — Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced a multi-year partnership with Louisville Metro government to increase public safety and make the criminal justice system more cost-effective, efficient, and fair. Working together, LJAF and the Louisville Metro Criminal Justice Commission will design tools, pilot innovations, and test system reforms aimed at improving the region’s criminal justice system.

Laura and John Arnold Foundation is committed to using data-driven solutions, technology, and analytics to reduce crime, promote just outcomes, and make the best use of public resources. It’s what we think of as Moneyballing’ the criminal justice system,” said Anne Milgram, LJAF’s Vice President of Criminal Justice, referring to the book and movie about the transformative impact meticulous data analysis had on baseball. Our partnership with Louisville will utilize everything we’ve learned to support their efforts to increase public safety and improve the quality of life for everyone in the city.”

Our top responsibility and goal is always to keep our citizens safe regardless of their circumstances or where they live,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. I’m truly excited about this partnership with the Arnold Foundation and the opportunity to harness data and technology to help us address persistent issues such as jail overcrowding. This multi-year relationship speaks loudly about our desire to improve public safety and the respect the Arnold Foundation has for Louisville’s public safety and criminal justice system and professionals.”

The innovations developed through this project have the potential to benefit criminal justice policy nationally. LJAF plans to evaluate the tools and system reforms that Louisville pilots with the aim of replicating nationwide those that have the greatest positive impact.

The focus of this project – which is unprecedented in scope — will be the front end” of the system, which runs from arrest through sentencing. The first step is an in-depth analysis of data from five separate criminal justice agencies, including law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, pretrial services, and corrections. By connecting the data of these five agencies, we will be able to identify opportunities for system improvements. This comprehensive review of the criminal justice system will provide important information about the areas in which reform and innovation can have the greatest impact.

The data analysis, which began earlier this year, is ongoing but has already identified possible areas of focus:

Jail overcrowding: Built to house approximately 1,800 inmates, the average daily jail population in 2012 was 2,005. And the population has increased every year since 2009. This trend is occurring even though bookings have been steadily decreasing over the same time period. The apparent cause is the fact that people are staying in jail longer. For instance, those being held in jail before trial (nearly two-thirds of the inmates) are incarcerated an average of 152 days.

Failure to Appear: Louisville Metro has a high rate of defendants failing to appear for court dates after being released from jail, which takes a huge toll on the system. In 2012, 18 percent of defendants failed to appear.

The results of this analysis will determine the changes to be implemented and the tools to be tested and evaluated. Among the possibilities are:

  • Measures to reduce jail overcrowding;
  • Piloting risk assessment instruments that can help courts and other decision makers figure out which defendants pose unacceptable risks to public safety (and therefore should be detained), and which can safely be supervised in the community;
  • Testing different methods of supervision, including GPS devices or other forms of electronic monitoring;
  • Reminders and notifications of court dates via text message and other means;
  • Studying court processing times and increasing efficiency; and
  • Modeling and evaluating system dynamics to help identify — on an ongoing basis — what causes problems in the system, and what levers exist to improve system performance.

The research and project management will be led by Dr. Marie VanNostrand, Dr. Chris Lowenkamp, Steven Libby, and Kristin Bechtel, who are consultants to LJAF.

LJAF spoke extensively with many jurisdictions across the country, and we ultimately chose to work in Louisville because the criminal justice leaders here have an incredible track record of working collaboratively to address issues in the criminal justice system,” said Milgram. They have a demonstrated commitment to identifying the most important challenges and then following the evidence to develop solutions that will do the most to enhance public safety, make the best use of public resources, and ensure the system is operating as fairly and efficiently as possible.”