Since joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, the jail population in Palm Beach County has been significantly reduced while keeping the community safe.
The county’s PalmFUSE program has demonstrated that housing frequent utilizers and providing them with wraparound services creates stability and ensures that people with behavioral health issues do not cycle in and out of jail. Launched as a pilot, the initial PalmFUSE project provided housing and case management for 12 unhoused individuals with behavioral health issues who were frequently arrested and cycled in and out of jail. Before the program, the 12 participants had been arrested 64 times collectively in the two years before they were housed. The pilot was completed in 2020. All participants have remained in housing, and no one has been rearrested since joining the program. A new contract has been signed to expand the program to 25 participants in 2021.
The county’s text message court date reminder system has successfully reduced the number of warrants issued for failure to appear by 62% for Public Defender clients, as of December 2020.
Initial Case Conference (ICC) hearings are designed to decrease the average length of stay for incarcerated individuals charged with second- and third-degree felonies. COVID-19 has unfortunately affected the program by increasing length of stay. Further research is being conducted to measure the program’s impact as court schedules return to normal.
There is productive collaboration among key stakeholders, including judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, public defenders, and community members, which has contributed to the progress to achieve a more fair and equitable use of jails.