East Baton Rouge Parish, LA

Change in Jail Population 47%

Action Areas Community Engagement Diversion Interagency Collaboration Racial Disparities

Last Updated

Background

In East Baton Rouge Parish, there is an over-reliance on incarceration for low-risk, nonviolent offenders.

At any given time, approximately 20% of the people in East Baton Rouge’s jail population have been identified as having a serious mental illness.

In 2017, the average length of stay for a person awaiting trial in the jail was 53.1 days.

The misuse of the jail takes an especially heavy toll on people of color. As of 2021, Black and Hispanic people made up 80% of the jail population, on average; they comprise just 45.9% of the local population.

Overuse of detention causes disruption in the stability of arrestees’ families and communities; it leads to higher re-arrest rates; and produces poor case outcomes with more back-end incarceration.

Strategies

Since joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, East Baton Rouge Parish has advanced a number of strategies to rethink and redesign its criminal justice system to make it more fair, just, and equitable for all.

01

DIVERSION TO SERVICES

The parish created a Pre-Trial Diversion and Recovery Program to identify people with behavioral health needs who could be placed in treatment in the community instead of waiting in the jail pretrial. Once an individual is approved for the program, they are released from jail and given a tailored case plan. The person graduates from the program when they complete the case plan The District Attorney can then dismiss their charges.

02

EXPEDITED ARRAIGNMENT

Under the District Attorney’s guidance and with the cooperation of the Police Department, Clerk of Court, the Public Defender, and the courts, the District Attorney began an Expedited Arraignment initiative, to bill most misdemeanor and felony charges within seven days of a person’s arrest.

03

RAPID CASE ASSESSMENT

Prior to the Safety and Justice Challenge, a defendant’s first appearance in front of a judge (known as Call Out) consisted of only the defendant and the judge, and typically resulted in a bond and a future court date being set. A new Rapid Case Assessment Team initiative paired a dedicated public defender and prosecutor at Call Out, providing a more meaningful first appearance and giving the defendant a far better chance at resolving the case early or getting a reduced bond.

04

SYSTEM & COMMUNITY COLLABORATION

Because the justice system is complex, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) was formed to look at reform as a whole and from a deep perspective. A diverse group of justice, municipal and community leaders came together to improve a wide array of policies and procedures within the justice system. The pillars of the CJCC are to promote inclusion, collaboration, and equity throughout the justice system.

Results

As a result of the strategies above, East Baton Rouge Parish has made progress towards its goal of rethinking and redesigning its criminal justice system. Overall, East Baton Rouge has been able to reduce its jail population while keeping the community safe.

Quartery ADP for East Baton Rouge (2018-2021)

46.9% from baseline

More Results

Between 2018 and June 2021, the Pre-Trial Diversion and Recovery Program has conducted 211 assessments, admitted 153 total participants. Of the total participants, 48 have graduated, and only 14.5% have been rearrested. Additionally, the Pre-Trial team has been able to open new modes of communication, establishing a consistent point of contact for resource connection to the District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s Offices, which wasn’t available before the program began.

As a result of the Expedited Arraignment program, the time it takes the District Attorney to bill a case has been reduced from approximately 8 weeks to 10 days, as of January 2020, which has had a direct effect on lowering the average daily population and the average length of stay at the Parish Prison. There has also been a significant decline in Failure to Appear rates since Expedited Arraignment began.

As a result of the new Rapid Case Assessment Team initiative, individuals had a far better chance at resolving the case early or getting a reduced bond at Call Out. In fact, between the launch of the Rapid Case Assessment team (RCAT) in July through December 2020, defendants at Call Out in Baton Rouge City Court had an 83% case resolution rate. In comparison, the case resolution rate of defendants prior to the implementation of RCAT at Call Out was nearly zero.

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) formed as a nonprofit organization in January 2019. Since then, the CJCC has selected a board of directors which include the heads of all the major justice agencies in EBR, the Mayor-President’s Office, and community organizations. The results of which have led to increased cross-agency communication and collaboration, unified effort towards reforming justice policies and programs, and enhanced conversations regarding disparities within the local justice system.

Remaining Challenges

East Baton Rouge Parish is focused on addressing its remaining challenges in its local justice system.

While East Baton Rouge has seen a significant decrease (47% on average) in the jail population since joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, it has proven more difficult to realize similar success in reducing racial and ethnic disparities. Looking ahead, East Baton Rouge will be focusing more directly on reducing racial and ethnic disparities at critical points in the criminal justice process, using a lens of equity and inclusion.

East Baton Rouge plans to focus on the data from current initiatives to find and correct disparities, while also working in partnership with people who have lived experience in the criminal justice system.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on every aspect of the parish’s local justice system and continues to uniquely affect those incarcerated in local jails. The foundation of collaborative, data-driven strategies, including the necessary structures and collaboration from local stakeholders that are in place to support these strategies, has set the parish up well to respond to the pandemic swiftly and effectively.

Lead Agency

Criminal Justice Coordinating Council

Contact Information

Christopher Csonka
ccsonka@ebrcjcc.org

Partners

19th Judicial District Court, Baton Rouge City Court, East Baton Rouge Juvenile Court, Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, 19th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Office of the Public Defender for East Baton Rouge Parish, City of Baton Rouge/East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor's Office, City Prosecutor’s Office, Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF)

Follow @ebrcjcc

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