Yamhill County, Oregon, encompasses 718 square miles and is home to more than 102,000 residents (2015 U.S. Census Bureau). It is approximately 40 miles southwest of the heart of Portland. The county’s population is 90.9% white, 15.9% Hispanic or Latino, 2.0% American Indian or Alaskan native, and 1.1% black or African American (2015 U.S. Census Bureau). The median household income is $53,864 (2015 U.S. Census Bureau). Just over 15% of the population lives below the poverty level (2015 U.S. Census Bureau).
The Yamhill County Jail can house 259 inmates but most often operates well under capacity, with an average daily population typically under 200. Yamhill County Department of Community Justice supervises just over 1,000 adult offenders on misdemeanor and felony probation, and on post-prison supervision. The county also has a Day Management Center, where medium and high risk Community Justice clients receive employment support services.
Yamhill County has four circuit court judges who operate problem solving courts, including an adult drug court, a mental health court (Court Coordinated Services), a restitution court, and a family drug court (Women’s Recovery Court).
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Prior to joining the EBDM initiative, Yamhill County benefitted from an active Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) composed of county leadership, justice system stakeholders, other county service agencies, and citizens. The multidisciplinary council and its associated policy team advise and make critical decisions on local public safety concerns. Another committee works in parallel to address concerns regarding the delivery of mental health and chemical dependency services, and to identify alternatives to incarceration for those suffering from mental illness.
Yamhill County’s interest in the EBDM initiative was fueled by their commitment to policy improvement through data-driven approaches and concerns about rapid population growth in the face of diminishing resources. County leadership identified EBDM as an opportunity to advance criminal justice policy and practice using a research-informed approach. In selecting Yamhill County to serve as an EBDM pilot site, NIC acknowledged the collaborative history among key stakeholders and their previous efforts to use data-driven management strategies to improve local justice system practices.
YAMHILL COUNTY’S EBDM VISION, MISSION, AND TEAM
The vision of the Yamhill County EBDM Policy Team is “a safer community where professionals work together utilizing data, research, and evidence-based practices in the criminal justice system.” Their mission speaks to the team’s steadfast commitment to harm reduction: “Yamhill County will experience enhanced public safety, a reduction in the number of victims, greater offender accountability, and a reduced threat of harm through the appropriate application of proven practices at all phases of the criminal justice process.” The team is comprised of:
- the presiding judge;
- a county commissioner;
- the district attorney;
- the sheriff;
- a defense attorney;
- a victim advocate;
- the director of Yamhill County Health and Human Services; and
- the director of community corrections.
YAMHILL COUNTY’S CHANGE TARGETS
The Yamhill County 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. The team engaged in a comprehensive analysis and system mapping of the local justice system from arrest to discharge. As a result of this process, the team created work groups to focus on four areas: pretrial decision making, sentencing, correctional treatment programming, and policies and services for individuals with special needs. The policy team developed logic models and implementation strategies for each change target in Phase II; in Phase III, they put their implementation strategies in place. (For more information on these change targets, see Yamhill County’s Phase III implementation plan.) This case study offers a summary of Yamhill County’s work in two areas:
- implementation of an evidence-based pretrial justice system; and
- establishment of a “case analysis” process to inform sentencing decisions.
Yamhill County’s EBDM efforts have led to several significant developments:
- The county was accepted into the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative-Local (JRI) in 2011. The county’s participation in JRI has provided further support for the pretrial program. In July 2013, Oregon implemented their statewide Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which brought financial resources to Yamhill County to fund an automated data system and the hiring of two additional PSOs. The automated pretrial case management system, Pretrial Justice Information System (PJIS), went live in August 2016; it allows pretrial stakeholders remote access to real-time data about pretrial defendants and significant analytic and reporting features for purposes of continued performance measurement.
- Since the implementation of their pretrial program, Yamhill has received numerous requests from colleague counties for additional information. This resulted in the convening of a one-day “Pretrial Summit” in June 2016, which was attended by representatives from 15 counties, the state Criminal Justice Commission, and the State Judicial Department, and it has led to a statewide focus on pretrial reform through the governor’s Public Safety Task Force.
- Interest in Yamhill’s DAR process has led to its replication in nine additional Oregon counties.