equivant announced the top three recipients of its 2016 Justi Award today. The Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller won top honors with Operation Fresh Start, a collaborative program that gave individuals a one-time opportunity to resolve their outstanding nonviolent misdemeanor or criminal traffic warrants without the fear of arrest. Because of Operation Fresh Start, nearly $20,000 was collected and more than 380 warrants were cleared on a single day, with Palm Beach County taxpayers avoiding the high costs that come with incarceration. Those who participated truly received a “fresh start”, moving on with their lives free of active warrants and positioned to settle remaining obligations.
The 2nd place winner for the Justi Award was the Lewis County Prosecutor and their Mental Health Alternatives program, a partnership between justice agencies and a local mental health treatment provider working to reroute chronically mentally ill persons who have run afoul of the law away from jail and toward recovery. To-date, more than 20 individuals have benefited from this life-changing program, saving the county over a quarter million dollars in jail days alone.
Finishing in 3rd place was the Elkhart County Sheriff with their blueprint to revamp jail programs to better prepare inmates for release. With a philosophy that emphasizes meaningful change rather than simply housing offenders, the Sheriff’s Program Ward offers a structured environment in which individuals learn important skills and get help planning for their discharge back into the community. Although a relatively new program, the jail has already seen steep increases in program participation and reentry readiness, which studies have correlated to reductions in recidivism.
Created in 2014, the Justi Award is an annual program that honors courts, clerks, public attorneys, and correctional/supervision agencies that have developed innovative programs or technology initiatives. All equivant customers are invited to submit their programs for recognition. “Our customers inspire us every day with their commitment to community and we’re honored to recognize them through the Justi Award program” said Sue Humphreys, equivant director of industry relations. “Several great initiatives were nominated for 2016 and we congratulate them all. These top three truly demonstrate that meaningful change is possible when justice agencies focus on improving outreach within their communities.”