Grant County, a rural county in north central Indiana, has a population of 67,979 (2015 U.S. Census Bureau). The county seat is Marion, located 65 miles north of Indianapolis. The county’s population is 89.1% white, 7.3% black or African American, and 4.0% Hispanic or Latino (2015 U.S. Census Bureau). Healthcare, education, retail, and manufacturing are the primary employers (Statistical Atlas, 2016). The median household income is $40,234 (2015 U.S. Census Bureau). Twenty percent of the population lives below the poverty level (2015 U.S. Census Bureau).
The Grant County felony criminal docket is divided among four courts: the Grant Circuit Court and three superior courts. The county’s sentencing options include probation services (funded by county tax dollars, user fees, and state and federal grants), community corrections (funded through an annual grant from the Indiana Department of Correction), the county jail, and behavioral health services provided by Grant-Blackford Mental Health, Inc., or Family Service Society. Grant County is among only 15 counties in Indiana with probation and community corrections services integrated into a single agency. There are no pretrial services, although an early risk screen designed and implemented in 2013 is administered at jail booking for purposes of early identification of defendants for diversion and specialty (drug, veterans, reentry) courts.
|Profile of Grant County’s Justice System||
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Grant County was selected as a pilot site in part because many policy officials already had worked together to plan, secure funding, and implement drug and veterans courts as well as a child advocacy center. Court officials and correctional managers also began, as early as 1998, to attend trainings on evidence-based practices and to apply what they learned to improving correctional supervision and service approaches, with the goal of reducing reoffending.
Grant County’s interest in the EBDM initiative was driven by a desire to significantly broaden stakeholder involvement in realizing the benefits of evidence-based practices—to engage the police, jail management, prosecution, defense, university community, victims’ advocates, and county council in improving public safety through the EBDM process. Despite a solid history of applying evidence-based practices in the courts and corrections, Grant officials saw the opportunity to do much more.
GRANT COUNTY’S EBDM MISSION AND TEAM
The Grant County criminal justice system’s mission statement is to “promote risk and harm reduction by utilizing collaborative decision-making and interventions founded on evidence-based research.”
The policy team spearheading the EBDM initiative is a subgroup of the Community Corrections Advisory Board. This board, established by statute to advise local correctional programs, has been in existence since the early 1980s and has monitored a variety of grant-funded services over the years. The EBDM policy team is composed of the following members:
- felony court judges;
- the county prosecutor;
- the jail administrator;
- the police chief;
- a victim advocate from the prosecutor’s office;
- the director of county correctional services;
- the director of community corrections;
- public defenders;
- representatives from the county fiscal body; and
- a mental health agency representative.
GRANT COUNTY’S CHANGE TARGETS
In addition to the change efforts highlighted in this case study, the Grant County EBDM Policy Team also:
- improved the effectiveness of the interventions provided by community (non-criminal justice) agencies by aligning them with evidence-based practices; and
- analyzed the statutory and legal issues regarding the use of a pretrial assessment tool, the Indiana Risk Assessment System (IRAS), to inform pretrial release and detention decisions. (See also the text box below “Grant County: Supporting Statewide Pretrial Reform.)
Grant County’s EBDM policy team, with assistance from their EBDM TA provider, started along the Phase II planning roadmap to assess the degree to which research evidence guided their decisions, and to identify strengths, challenges, and targets for future policy and practice change. By the end of Phase II, the policy team had agreed to a set of change targets and developed logic models and a detailed plan for implementation. This case study offers a review of Grant County’s Phase II/III efforts as they relate to the following change targets:
- reallocating probation caseloads to optimize the supervision of higher risk probationers;
- developing a data dashboard; and
- revising the probation violations process and expanding alternatives to revocation.
For more information on the full range of change targets developed by Grant County, see their Phase III implementation plan.
Grant County: Supporting Statewide Pretrial Reform
Implementation of Indiana’s pretrial risk assessment tool (IRAS-PAT) was an early EBDM change target for Grant County, and a primary focus of their pretrial work group. Through their efforts, a number of barriers to implementation of the IRAS-PAT emerged. The most challenging among these were limitations on persons authorized to administer the IRAS-PAT pursuant to Indiana’s risk assessment policy, legal and research concerns regarding the tool (i.e., that some items in the tool administered at the pretrial stage could lead to self-incrimination and that the tool had yet to be validated on an Indiana defendant population), and how best to address local reliance on revenues from cash bonds to support critical court and defense counsel services.
Identification of these issues opened dialogue between Grant County and state-level partners, particularly the Indiana Supreme Court. Grant County officials conducted training on pretrial evidence-based practices at the Indiana Judicial Conference Annual Meeting in 2013. In December 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court established the Committee to Study Evidence-Based Pretrial Release, which was tasked with exploring the need for and avenues to improving pretrial reform in Indiana. Grant County officials continue to play a role in the statewide pretrial reform effort, serving either on the Supreme Court committee or one of its subcommittees. Following more than a year of work and the development of a new criminal rule on pretrial, the Supreme Court committee established a partnership with the statewide EBDM initiative to develop and oversee a multicounty pretrial release pilot project.
In addition to participating in EBDM, Grant County was accepted into the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative-Local (JRI) in 2011. The county’s participation in JRI provided significant resources for data analysis, including an examination of the characteristics of defendants and offenders in jail and on probation (population drivers) and the costs associated with the current use of sanctions. The policy team plans to continue monitoring the implementation of its change targets and examining outcome data in order to further refine its efforts. The county’s dashboard is an ongoing project: the court and probation portions of the dashboard are fully operational, and the court is working with Grant County to bring the final data elements from the jail information system online.
New areas of exploration for the policy team include: improving the jail information system to capture data about the inmate population, bonds, court case numbers and dispositions, and risk information, as well as managing new trends in the use of jail for sentenced inmates and defendants with mental health issues. A particular concern will be the impact of HSB 1006, the revised Indiana Criminal Code, on county resources. The bill mandates that low level felons, formerly eligible for a prison sentence, shall be sentenced to local supervision options (largely probation or jail). As a result, the county is experiencing an increased jail population, as well as an increased demand for substance abuse and mental health treatment, placing greater demands on county services.
Grant County will continue to focus on maintaining a strong collaborative team, and recently invited new members to join the policy team, including a county administrator, additional defense counsel representation, and a city court judge. Further, Grant County has supported statewide EBDM efforts by serving as the state’s first EBDM pilot site, supporting and participating on the Indiana statewide EBDM policy team, and sharing its knowledge, experiences, and products with colleagues throughout the state. The Supreme Court intends to use the Grant County dashboard as a template for other counties. Grant County representatives join a team of state officials in Indiana who together serve on the Indiana State EBDM Policy Team. Indiana’s state EBDM team and eleven partner counties are currently participating in Phase VI of the EBDM initiative.