For decades, the primary way jails and prisons have attempted to mitigate this elevated risk and keep mentally ill inmates safe was to keep them separated from the general population. This makes sense: When vulnerable inmates aren’t exposed to potential predators, they’re substantially less likely to be victimized.
Risk and needs assessments have come under a lot of scrutiny in the justice sector, and it’s not uncommon for our clients to get questions from their stakeholders about their use of assessments in evidence-based practice. We’ve compiled a list of the top five questions we hear and straightforward answers to help you educate others and demonstrate why assessments are helping you advance justice in your community.
Much of the pretrial reform debate centers on one key question: Should this individual be released or detained? However, the second-most important question is the most overlooked: How? How do we know our approach is working to deliver fair practices? If the individual is released, what pretrial services should they receive? If they’re detained, how should they be housed?
When used the right way, data is powerful. The data collected on your web browsing habits (probably) aren’t going to change the world, but the data you collect and use as a supervision professional can mean the difference between helping—or inadvertently harming—your community. THAT’s powerful.
Jails were never supposed to be detox centers. They weren’t designed as treatment providers. As jails see more and more people suffering from substance abuse disorders walk through the door, we’re facing an uncomfortable reality: We weren’t supposed to, we weren’t designed to, and yet WE ARE a primary change agent in the fight against addiction in our country.
Pretrial decisions can have heavy consequences. Individuals involved in the pretrial phase of the justice process are considered still-innocent of any crime, so the decisions that are made must be weighed carefully. Pretrial reform is a hot topic in our country today, and the use of a risk assessment during the pretrial phase is under great scrutiny.
When it comes to reducing recidivism, we have some specific recommendations, strategies, and tactics that have demonstrated substantial positive results for practitioners. What these strategies all have in common is they’re essential parts of evidence-based organizations.
The opioid crisis has created an unmatched challenge in the history of correctional facilities, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Jails are uniquely positioned to step up and make a difference, and many are. As of January 2018, jails in 30 states provide MAT, and the number is climbing.4 As more jails find ways to stand up to opioids in their communities, it paves the way for others to follow.
Reducing recidivism is one of the most important things we can do as supervision professionals. It’s also one of the hardest. Part of what makes recidivism so difficult to tackle is that successes and failures happen on the individual level, but only systemic change can truly make a difference.
Restrictive housing, when used effectively, can help jail staff maintain safety and protect vulnerable inmates. However, overuse of this tool has led to ongoing problems for jails throughout the country. Constant vigilance of restrictive housing procedures and practices is necessary.