Deschutes County’s Clean Slate Program Shows Value of Front-End Diversion

By: John Hummel

Community Engagement Policing Pretrial Services September 28, 2021

The war on drugs has failed. More than 60 percent of people who are prosecuted for drug offenses reoffend. In Deschutes County, Oregon, our Clean Slate program provides a model for how communities can chart a better path.

Fifty-three percent of program participants have successfully completed the Clean Slate program, which requires not incurring a new arrest within one year. When compared to individuals that were eligible to enroll in the program but did not participate, only 38 percent were not cited for a new crime within 12 months. This impact is reflected again in that Deschutes County’s two-year recidivism rate hovers around 76 percent, but the two-year rate for Clean Slate participants is only 42 percent. Due to these successes, over 400 court appearances have been avoided and 253 people have been connected to much-needed medical care since the program’s inception in November 2017.

Front-end diversion efforts like Clean Slate—which occur before a court date, when a person has initial contact with law enforcement—can prevent overuse of jail and the negative consequences an arrest can have on a person’s life. We were able to develop the Clean Slate program and run the proof-of-concept pilot thanks to funding from the Safety and Justice Challenge Innovation Fund.

How the Program Works

When an officer interacts with a person on the street suspected of drug possession, rather than arrested them, they issue a citation to appear in court, and they give them a card with information about the Clean Slate program. Our office then calls that person and invites them to a Clean Slate orientation meeting which they can attend before their court date. At that meeting, the District Attorney or one of their deputies is there to welcome the person. After the welcome, the person has a confidential meeting with the public defenders, who also participate in the orientation process. After meeting with the District Attorney and the public defender, the individual meets with a substance use disorder professional who conducts an assessment. The person is then scheduled for an appointment with a primary care provider provider at one of the program’s participating federally qualified health centers. Once the patient shows up at that appointment, they are in the program and out of the criminal justice system.

Treating Substance Abuse Disorder in the Medical System, Not the Criminal Justice System

We have tried treating substance abuse disorder in the criminal justice system for the past 100 years, and we have failed miserably. It simply does not work. When someone is charged with possessing drugs, it is our belief that they either use recreationally or they are living with a substance use disorder and need the help of a medical professional.

The healthcare environment is very different from the criminal justice environment. Patients are free to talk openly and can communicate about what is going on with their lives. There are often underlying issues contributing to their substance abuse disorder. Sometimes it is a history of trauma or a mental health condition. There are also socioeconomic stressors that often play a role. Most people want to do better; they just do not know how to take the first step.

The leadership and providers at Mosaic Medical and La Pine Community Health Center were invaluable to this effort and worked intensely with us to develop the nuts and bolts of the program. They provide compassionate and competent care to our participants everyday.

Getting Law Enforcement on Board

Law enforcement officers have also been important partners. Many have embraced the program and encourage people suspected of possessing drugs to attend a Clean Slate orientation meeting.

Many officers on the street tell us they have come to have a better understanding of the people they interact with on a regular basis. They now realize that the people they are interacting with often have mental health issues, physical conditions, and trauma, which go together with drug addictions.

Handing a person a Clean Slate card and referring them to programs and resources can build a good working relationship between officers and the people they are citing. It shows the officer is not just there to throw a person into a jail cell but instead wants to see them succeed.

Humanizing People with Substance Abuse Disorder

People with a substance abuse disorder do not want or choose to have it. We are not giving them a break; we are giving them a chance to live the life they want to live.

By removing the criminal framework and demonstrating that there are healthcare providers here to help, we make it easier for people to stay employed and housed. Those are important ways for people to stay productive and engaged in society.

Our participants tell us they did not know programs like Clean Slate existed and that they did not think they had the resources to go through such a program. They feel like it is their opportunity to succeed and change their life. They also tell us that the medical staff they work with are helpful and kind, and that there is a lack of judgment which also helps them succeed.

One participant told us: “This program saved my life: I would have been dead by now. I reconnected with my family, have not been arrested, gained weight, got healthier, have fewer sick days at work. It is a miracle, and my whole life has changed.”

Lessons Learned

Police officers told us that the personal commitment of the prosecutor’s office to encourage them to refer to Clean Slate was important in securing their support. We also learned the importance of securing stakeholder support during the process of designing the program. And of course, we relied on data collection to validate the program’s success.

Jail detention has tremendous costs for the people in jail, their families, and their community. This program has reduced those costs and is a worthwhile investment in people’s futures.

We encourage other Safety and Justice Challenge jurisdictions to draw on the lessons from the Clean Slate Program to lower the use of jails and help people living with substance abuse disorder improve their lives.

The Clean Slate Program is also the subject of a case study by the Urban Institute which is available here. And you can watch a video about the program featuring participants and law enforcement, here.

Pathways to Collective Healing: Law Enforcement and the Communities They Serve

By: Aviva Kurash

Policing Reentry Victims August 19, 2021

In the wake of calls to reevaluate public safety, the challenges of modern policing call for police agencies to build and maintain trust and legitimacy with the communities they serve and to work with community members as essential partners to identify problems and co-produce tangible solutions.

As strategic partners to the Safety and Justice Challenge, the IACP recognizes that promoting community-wide healing in the wake of trauma cannot be detached from the efforts to reduce jail populations and promote alternatives to arrest that uphold community safety. Trust, transparency, accountability, and safety are intertwined.

Policing happens in a dynamic environment. Policies, procedures, supervision, oversight, and accountability systems can help minimize the risk of high-profile events occurring or scandals arising. However, police agencies also need to be prepared to respond in the aftermath of these incidents to promote healing, recovery, and accountability. Police agencies that have trained officers to provide a trauma-informed response and promote comprehensive officer wellness are better able to constructively respond to the trauma of a high-profile incident.

This raises the question: how do we move forward? In 2016, the Office for Victims of Crime in the U.S. Department of Justice sought to explore what a path forward that embraces collective healing might look like, in the process developing a national demonstration initiative: Law Enforcement and the Communities They Serve: Supporting Collective Healing in the Wake of Harm (“Collective Healing”). The IACP was motivated to lead this initiative because we recognized that a strong foundation of understanding and collaboration must be in place between police and the communities they serve, prior to high-profile incidents, to ensure the deployment of effective responses in the wake of such incidents—when barriers, tensions, and stakes are often intensified.

Over the intensive four-year Collective Healing initiative, the IACP provided oversight, management, and national training and technical assistance to five law enforcement agency demonstration sites. Through partnerships with Equal Justice USA, Resilience Works, the Alliance for Safety and Justice and the Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice Initiative, PRO Wellness Services, and a range of other experts with experience in building trauma-informed systems through multi-stakeholder collaborations, the Collective Healing initiative supported law enforcement’s leadership role in adopting a trauma-informed culture and practice.

Themes Across Collective Healing Sites

The initiative’s intersectional approach focused on three interrelated components that are essential to fostering collective healing: 1) improving community-police relations and community wellness, 2) enhancing the access to and quality of victim services, and 3) improving officer and agency wellness and resilience. Specifically, this initiative elevated strategies that address institutional disparities, enhance victim services (with particular attention to reducing barriers to accessing these services in communities that experience a disproportionate burden of victimization), and promote comprehensive officer wellness and resiliency. Our resulting report from this project sheds light on both these preventative and reparative strategies.

Work with demonstration sites included developing, implementing, and assessing the practical tools necessary for building essential relationships and joint strategies to reduce tensions, maximize communication, promote trauma-informed interventions and problem-solving, and facilitate healing between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

The report outlining what we learned is designed to help law enforcement agencies create a victim-centered, trauma-informed, collaborative response, co-created with the communities that they serve. The report emphasizes meeting the needs of the most vulnerable after traumatic events, including communities that are most impacted by the criminal legal system and community violence, the responding officers, their families, and their agencies. These efforts are significant but represent only the early stages of what should be a long-term commitment to addressing complex and deeply rooted challenges.

The intensive work of the Collective Healing initiative over four years focused on creating a victim-centered, trauma-informed, collaborative response that meets the needs of those most vulnerable amid violence and traumatic events. In the wake of calls to reevaluate public safety priorities and strategies, we should bear in mind that working toward collective healing is a continuous process, involving both accountability and transparency, and which includes:

  • Trauma-informed policing
  • Leadership, culture, and operational capacity-building
  • Collaboration and community engagement
  • Victim services
  • Vicarious trauma and officer wellness

We look forward to sharing the lessons learned from this demonstration initiative as we continue to work with and learn from the sites in the Safety and Justice Challenge, and ultimately promote local justice systems that are both safe and just.

You can read the full report here.

In New Orleans From The Barbershop To The Bakery: What Makes You Feel Safe?

By: Emily Rhodes

Community Engagement Featured Jurisdictions Policing February 17, 2021

Amidst the ongoing national conversation about public safety and policy priorities, the voices of those most impacted must be centered in order to see real change.

To that end, the New Orleans Safety and Justice Challenge Community Advisory Group (CAG) devised a creative way to shift that conversation from City Hall and budget-planning board rooms into the streets where our neighbors live, work, and play.

The mission of the CAG is to support and participate in the successful implementation of the Safety and Justice Challenge strategies and hold public agencies and officials accountable to reducing the jail population and increase equity within the criminal system. We have always recognized that a plan or strategy without the community’s voice will not be sustainable nor successful. In our three years of existence alongside the city’s Safety and Justice Challenge commitments, we have sought numerous opportunities to bridge the gap that often exists between policy makers and their constituents, those most impacted and those making decisions at a distance.

As the pandemic has ravaged New Orleans physically, economically, and culturally, and the centuries-long movement for racial justice gained fresh steam this summer, we wanted to put our Safety and Justice Challenge Community Engagement funds to use in a way that would open the door for the essential conversations that would create a healthy, safe, and equitable city for current and future generations. We wanted to channel the energy of both the national protests for justice and the continuous efforts to safely reduce the jail population in the context of a global health crisis in an accessible and engaging way. We knew that debates over criminal system reform can easily break down without really uncovering what real people need to feel safe. Who is the system really serving if we do not have the chance to share our experiences with those in power?

In 2020, the city of New Orleans spent $313 million on “public safety,” but those dollars do not always align with the things that make people who live here feel safe. And the field of public safety is so professionalized that it often excludes many of the people whose very safety it is tasked with upholding. We wanted to close some of that disconnect by broadening the tent of voices that are involved in the discussion of what public safety means in New Orleans. Inspired by The Black Thought Project in Oakland, California, we envisioned inviting the community into the process of reimagining safety through an interactive public art installation.

Derrick Tabb, owner of the Treme Hideaway, and CAG Member Michael Pellet leave their mark at a community chalkboard in New Orleans

We hired local barber and artist Ronnie Dents to oversee the design and installation of community chalkboards in seven locations around the city. We used grant money to pay Black-owned local businesses suffering from pandemic losses to host the boards and grassroots community groups to monitor the boards for hate speech, as well as chalk and supplies. All came together to amplify the diversity of our voices in response to the question of “what makes me feel safe?”

Local artist Ronnie Dents installing a Community Chalkboard in New Orleans East
Photo credit: Quincy Coby

Local businesses hosting the chalkboards include barbershops (HeadQuarters and Juju Bag), restaurants (Neyow’s Creole Cafe, Treme Hideaway, Two Sistas ‘N Da East), a bakery (Mr. B’s) and a neighborhood market (Burnell’s Lower 9th Ward Market).  We have also partnered with community organizations to monitor the boards: Community Book Center, Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association, Guardians Institute, Southern Solidarity, VAYLA and Roots of Music.

A community chalkboard at the JujuBag Restaurant and Barbershop

The answers shared on the boards have been as diverse as “being anywhere the police aren’t” to “the color purple” and even reflections on religion and spirituality. “The most fulfilling part of the project has been the conversations that have been had as a result of the prompt,” says Dents. “I look forward to what thoughts and attitudes and actions come as a result of answering this very important question.”

The timing of the project to coincide with local elections in November and December was intentional. We wanted to create an opportunity for conversation, even in a socially-distanced way, for neighbors, business owners, and community members that could frame criminal system reform in a community-rooted way. Ultimately our hope is that campaigning and elected officials would listen to the citizens of New Orleans and be spurred on by what residents actually value around safety and justice.

Our Community Advisory Group is a diverse and representative group of New Orleans residents who volunteer our time and energy to hold the city’s stakeholders accountable to the Challenge strategies. We are looking forward to seeing more answers from the community about what makes them feel safe, as this project plays out over the coming months.

The people of New Orleans are speaking up about how we can keep each other safe. Will our public officials listen?

Emily Rhodes is a member of the Community Advisory Group, New Orleans Safety and Justice Challenge and works for the Center for Employment Opportunities in New Orleans.

—Natalie Sharp is the Community Advisory Group Coordinator and works at Travis Hill School, which has a school located inside of New Orleans’ juvenile detention center and adult jail.


Pre-Arrest Diversion – An Effective Model Ready for Widespread Adoption

By: Greg Frost

Diversion Interagency Collaboration Policing November 23, 2020

With the growing recognition of the need to create alternatives to arrest and prosecution for low-level offenses, many innovative diversion alternatives are emerging. While there are effective post-arrest (or post-booking) diversion programs, changing the traditional criminal justice system in meaningful ways takes bold leadership and vision.

Tallahassee and Leon County, Florida, leaders have taken the bold step to create a community partnership that diverts first-time misdemeanor offenders to a pre-arrest behavioral health intervention program. The Pre-arrest Diversion Program (PAD) is now seen as a successful alternative to arrest and a law enforcement tool for improving public safety and community-police relations.

One of the factors that makes PAD unique is that it’s pre-arrest. The PAD program started in 2013 as the first program in Florida — and based on extensive research, possibly the first in the nation — to give law enforcement officers the formal discretion to divert a misdemeanor offender away from the traditional criminal justice system without first making an arrest, either a physical arrest or issuing a citation-in-lieu of physical arrest. Even though incarceration and prosecution may be avoided by post-arrest diversion, in most states the offender still has an arrest record with the arresting agency. It is well documented that having an arrest record jeopardizes current and future employment, compromises student loans, and blocks access to certain housing opportunities. Because the PAD program is pre-arrest, successful diversion and program completion means the offender does not have an arrest record. Program participation is tracked through an online application available to all law enforcement agencies.

The PAD program expands the concept of Florida’s successful Juvenile Civil Citation program to adults. Also known as an adult civil citation program, the PAD model provides an alternative to arrest for many low-level misdemeanor offenses that result from an error in judgment, out of control emotions, or someone simply making a mistake. Eligible offenses approved for diversion by Tallahassee and Leon County law enforcement officers include disorderly conduct, trespass, criminal mischief, petit theft, underage possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana under 20 grams, possession of drug paraphernalia, non-domestic simple battery, and non-domestic simple assault.

Based on the offender not having an arrest record and cooperating fully with the law enforcement officer, as well as consideration of the victim’s input, the officer has the discretion to offer diversion into the PAD program. An offender can voluntarily choose not to participate in the PAD program and instead opt for their day in court. If diversion is accepted, the offender enters an intervention program operated by DISC Village – a non-profit behavioral health agency in Tallahassee. During program intake at DISC Village each person receives a behavioral health assessment and is screened for drug use. Based on the results, an individualized intervention plan is developed. The participant then has 90 days to complete the intervention plan, as well as a mandatory 25 hours of community service. Participants pay the behavioral health company $350 for the intervention services. This is approximately the same cost as court fines and fees if they were to be criminally prosecuted. Payment plans and waivers are available for those who cannot afford the PAD fee. No one is denied participation for the inability to pay. Failure in the program results in the participant being arrested and prosecuted for the original offense.

Avoiding a criminal arrest record has proven to be a great incentive, and the evidence-based intervention services provided by DISC Village have significantly impacted recidivism for participants. Since the PAD program started in March of 2013, law enforcement officers with the Tallahassee Police Department and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office have diverted over 1,000 offenders. Of the nearly 80% of diverted offenders who successfully complete the program, only 6% were subsequently rearrested. Data used to determine the rearrest rate was provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to the program’s evaluator at Western Carolina University. The statewide data reflected arrests for PAD participants in any Florida jurisdiction following participation in the program.

Improving public safety by reducing recidivism is a primary goal of the PAD program. A 6% rearrest rate is a significant reduction when compared to offenders prosecuted through the criminal justice system.  While there is little formal research related to recidivism for first-time misdemeanants, in Leon County prior to the PAD program the estimated recidivism rate for this category of offenders was 40%. A long-term study conducted by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission found the average rearrest rate was approximately 45% for first-time misdemeanor offenders processed through Oregon misdemeanor courts.

There are many benefits for using pre-arrest diversion. The offender and law enforcement receive the most obvious – improved efficiency for the officer and the offender has an opportunity to avoid an arrest record and receive intervention services. The program also reduces the workload for the already overloaded misdemeanor court system. During FY15, over 65,000 adults with no prior record were arrested in Florida and charged with a misdemeanor offense. If PAD programs were adopted throughout the state a significant portion of these individuals could have been directly diverted by law enforcement.  The unnecessary and long-lasting harm that arrest records cause people who are not a true threat to public safety, could have been avoided and scarce criminal justice resources used for more important cases.

Long-term reform is only possible when community leaders decide to break away from the cycle of arrest and rearrest that results from the current revolving-door approach of the criminal justice system. There are many people for whom incarceration is necessary because they are a true threat to public safety. However, as most law enforcement officers will confirm, there are many times when a crime is committed as a result of heated emotions or poor judgment… we all make mistakes. Under these circumstances, a community is better served if officers are given the discretion to divert away from the criminal justice system, and instead of making an arrest the offender receives intervention services that improve public safety.

There is no doubt that in Tallahassee and Leon County, due to bold community leadership, law enforcement officers have an effective tool for handling first-time misdemeanor offenders. Lives of hundreds of people have remained intact because they avoided an arrest record, public safety has improved through reduced recidivism, law enforcement relations with the community improved because officers have an alternative to arrest, and the community partnership has no cost for the local government. With these types of outcomes, the PAD program is a model ready for widespread adoption.

This post originally appeared on the blog of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. 

Advancing Reform: SJC Sites Make Significant Changes to Law Enforcement and Behavioral Health Services Funding

By: Ashley Krider

Community Engagement Featured Jurisdictions Policing November 2, 2020

Prompted by recent cries for police reform across the U.S., many jurisdictions have made or promised significant changes to law enforcement funding, frequently allocating additional funding to behavioral health and community services. Many sites are exploring or expanding community-based emergency first response as an alternative to police response to individuals experiencing crisis and those with mental health needs.

As technical assistance providers to the Safety and Justice Challenge, Policy Research, Inc. (PRI) has compiled an ongoing list of examples of this shift across the country, to serve as a resource to other communities who may be considering their own reform.

Here are some examples of changes in SJC sites:

  • Baltimore, Maryland: In June, the City Council approved a $22.4 million (less than 5%) cut to the Police Department’s $550 million 2021 budget, including nearly $7 million from overtime spending.
  • Portland, Oregon: In late 2019, the city announced a similar program to CAHOOTS, Portland Street Response (PSR), which takes police off of low-priority 9-1-1 calls and instead sends a new branch of first responders, trained in behavioral health, to address issues related to people experiencing homelessness or mental health crises. In June, the Portland City Council approved $4.8 million funding for PSR, along with a 3% reduction (about $15 million) to the Portland Police Bureau budget.
  • Los Angeles, California: In June, the Los Angeles City Council voted to cut $150 million (of an $1.8 billion total budget) from the city’s police department budget, halting a planned increase in funding. The $150 million will be redirected toward community-building projects and health and education initiatives in minority communities. ­In July, the city council announced plans to expand a pilot program to create a new police bureau focused on community policing, relying on guidance from community leaders, representatives from city hall, and others.
  • New York City, New York: In July, the New York City Council approved shifting roughly $1 billion away from the $6 billion annual Police Department budget. The budget also shifts school safety and homeless outreach away from police. New York City’s Crisis Management System (CMS) program deploys teams of credible messengers who mediate conflicts on the street and connect high-risk individuals to services that can reduce the long-term risk of violence. In the last three years, the Crisis Management System has contributed to a 15% decline in shootings in the 17 highest violence precincts in New York City. In early June, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he plans to increase CMS spending by ten million dollars, hire additional workers, and expand programs to Soundview, Jamaica, Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Canarsie.
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico: In June, the Mayor announced the formation of a new department, Albuquerque Community Safety, designed to relieve stress on the city’s police. Instead of the police or fire departments responding to 9-1-1 calls related to homelessness, addiction, and mental health, the new division will deploy unarmed personnel made up of social workers, housing and homelessness specialists, and violence prevention coordinators. Mayor Keller stated that the department’s creation will start with a focus on “restructuring and reallocating resources” that the city is already investing in different areas, saying he anticipated “tens of millions of dollars that will move” with the department’s creation.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: In June, the City Council approved a 2021 fiscal year budget that reduced police department funding by $33 million and allocated $45 million into affordable housing, arts funding, and social services addressing poverty.
  • San Francisco, California: In July, the Mayor announced a $120 million cut from the city police and sheriff’s departments over the next two years, redirecting funding toward addressing disparities in the Black community including in housing, mental health and wellness, workforce development, economic justice, education, advocacy, and accountability.
  • Durham, North Carolina: In June 2019, the city council voted against hiring 18 new patrol officers after a public campaign led by Durham Beyond Policing. The city is now exploring a new “community safety and wellness task force” instead. While the city’s 2021 budget did include an increase of $1.2 million for the police department, $1 million was also added for a Community Health and Safety Task Force to “potentially take on some of the responsibilities of policing the city over time.”

Many jurisdictions around the country are also taking a hard look at the wisdom of continuing to place police in schools. Several SJC sites that have pledged to remove or removed police from schools include:

  • Portland, Oregon: In June, the Portland Public Schools superintendent announced that it will discontinue the regular presence of SROs. New investments in counselors, social workers, and culturally specific partners were proposed.
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Board of School Directors voted unanimously in June to terminate its contract with the Milwaukee Police Department in its public schools.
  • Madison, Wisconsin: The school board voted unanimously in June to end its contract with the Madison Police Department for SROs.
  • Portland, Maine: The school board voted in July to remove SROs from Deering and Portland High School. Money previously allocated for SROs will be diverted toward programs like “supporting security at large events and de-escalation training for staff.”

COVID-19 and the nationwide racial equity and justice protests over the past few months have shifted the ground beneath much of the advocacy and work that we do. We are faced with an opportunity and responsibility to not only respond to the changing landscape of criminal justice and behavioral health fields, but to advance reform.

—Ashley Krider is a Senior Project Associate at Policy Research, Inc.