Kalamazoo City and County Governments are one of five communities nationally chosen to participate in a selective program focused on reducing the overuse of jails and the negative effects that jail overuse has on communities.
A County team consisting of Commissioner Julie Rogers and Chief District Court Judge Christopher Haenicke, and a City team comprising Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell and Assistant Chief of Public Safety David Boysen will lead community partners in the year-long “Intergovernmental Policy Academy: Young Adults and the Justice System” that is being supported by the National Association of Counties (NACo), the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety + Justice Challenge. Additional team members named in the application are Prosecutor Jeff Getting, County Sherriff Richard C Fuller III, Director of Michigan Works! Southwest, Ben Damerow, and Jeff Patton, the CEO of Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
The city and county are partnering on this effort out of necessity to coordinate optimal service provision and to efficiently use and leverage resources. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS), Kalamazoo Township Police, and the City of Portage Public Safety are recognizing that each is strongest when working together with others. The main areas of interest include early intervention, mental health and substance abuse screening and assessment, job training and workforce integration, post-incarceration reentry, data system and data evaluation model improvements, cross-agency and cross-jurisdiction communication and coordination. Kalamazoo County and the City of Kalamazoo are interested in participating in the Intergovernmental Academy to gather new ideas and strategies for integrating existing, disparate efforts, and to develop new best practice models in data collection and analysis so we can identify opportunity areas for improvement.
There has also been a new effort to prioritize the community’s commitment to reducing the number of young people incarcerated. Some programming efforts in this area have already been instituted. However, assessment of program outcomes can be markedly improved.
Jail overuse creates ongoing, harmful effects, inefficiently uses scarce resources, responds ineffectively to mental health and substance abuse issues, and does not recognize the developmental stage of young adults (age 18-24). As documented through the Safety and Justice Challenge, many individuals held in local jails are charged with low-level, non-violent offenses, are pretrial, and do not constitute threats to public safety or flight risks. These practices take an outsized toll on young adults and communities of color.
This initiative will support Kalamazoo City and County governments along with five other teams to: 1) develop strategies to reduce the use of jails for young adults 2) achieve measurable reductions in the use of jails for young adults, especially young adults of color 3) learn from peers and experts across the nation to reduce the use of jails for young adults.
The program consists of two, two-day intensive conferences and a year of technical, policy, and other assistance tailored to achieve the program’s goals. Each selected team of city, county and state officials will identify a goal for aligning policies across all levels of government, such as: re-examining current procedures that perpetuate poverty, including fines and fees, and improving services that support employment among young adults among many others possible goals. In addition, all teams will work to improve information- and data-sharing policies and practices across jurisdictions.
The City and County’s application to participate was led by County Commissioner Julie Rogers with support from Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell. The application was successful because of the demonstrated commitment and capacity of a proposed team to engage consistently in the technical assistance and peer-learning activities over 12 months, and a demonstrated need and potential to benefit from technical assistance.
More information about the Safety + Justice Challenge can be found at www.safetyandjusticechallenge.org. More information on the program can be found at www.naco.org/resources/signature-projects/safety-and-justice-challenge. More information on Imagine Kalamazoo and the Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo Plan can be found at www.imaginekalamazoo.com.
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