Barack Obama photo

Fact Sheet: Launching the Data-Driven Justice Initiative: Disrupting the Cycle of Incarceration

June 30, 2016

"[O]ur criminal justice system isn't as smart as it should be. It's not keeping us as safe as it should be. It is not as fair as it should be. Mass incarceration makes our country worse off, and we need to do something about it." – President Barack Obama, July 14, 2015

Every year, more than 11 million people move through America's 3,100 local jails, many on low-level, non-violent misdemeanors, costing local governments approximately $22 billion a year. In local jails, 64 percent of people suffer from mental illness, 68 percent have a substance abuse disorder, and 44 percent suffer from chronic health problems. Communities across the country have recognized that a relatively small number of these highly-vulnerable people cycle repeatedly not just through local jails, but also hospital emergency rooms, shelters, and other public systems, receiving fragmented and uncoordinated care at great cost to American taxpayers, with poor outcomes.

For example, Miami-Dade, Florida found that 97 people with serious mental illness accounted for $13.7 million in services over 4 years, spending more than 39,000 days in either jail, emergency rooms, state hospitals, or psychiatric facilities in their county. In response, the county provided key mental health de-escalation training to their police officers and 911 dispatchers. Over the past 5 years, Miami-Dade police have responded to nearly 50,000 calls for service for people in mental-health crises, but have made only 109 arrests, diverting more than 10,000 people to services or safely stabilizing situations without arrest. The jail population fell from over 7,000 to just over 4,700, and the county was able to close an entire jail facility, saving nearly $12 million a year.

On any given day, across the country more than 450,000 people are held in jail before trial, nearly 63 percent of the local jail population, even though they have not been convicted of a crime. A 2014 study of New York's Riker's Island jail found more than 86 percent of detained individuals were held on a bond of $500 or less. To tackle the challenges of bail, in 2014 Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina began using a data-based risk assessment tool to identify low-risk people in jail and find ways to release them safely. Since Charlotte-Mecklenburg began using the tool, significantly more low-risk individuals have been released from jail, the total county jail population has dropped by 40 percent, and there has been no increase in reported crime.

To break the cycle of incarceration, the Administration is launching the Data-Driven Justice Initiative (DDJ) with a bipartisan coalition of 67 city, county, and state governments who have committed to using data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system and change approaches to pre-trial incarceration, so that low-risk offenders no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond. These innovative strategies, which have measurably reduced jail populations in several communities, help stabilize individuals and families, better serve communities, and often save money in the process.

The DDJ communities will implement the following strategies that have proven to be effective in reducing unnecessary incarceration in jails:

•      Use data to identify and proactively break the cycle of incarceration. DDJ communities will bring data together from across criminal justice and health systems to identify the individuals with the highest number of contacts with police, ambulance, emergency departments, and other services, and link them to health, behavioral health, and social services in the community, with a goal of reducing overreliance on emergency healthcare and encounters with the criminal justice system.

•      Equip law enforcement and first responders with the tools they need to respond and divert. Recognizing that police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and firefighters are often front-line responders to people experiencing mental health crises, DDJ communities will create systems and protocols to help effectively de-escalate crisis situations and safely divert people to the appropriate service providers instead of arresting them.

•      Use data-driven, validated, pre-trial risk assessment tools to inform pre-trial release decisions. DDJ communities will work towards using objective, data-driven, validated risk-assessment tools to identify low-risk defendants held in jail and identify opportunities for their safe release.

Administration Commitments to Support Data-Driven Justice Communities

•      Leveraging a community resources toolkit. The Administration is developing a toolkit to provide concrete guidance for jurisdictions seeking to develop a strong pre-arrest diversion program. The brief, step-by-step toolkit will synthesize best practices, policies, and programs that have been effective in DDJ communities. The toolkit will provide links to Federal resources and a funding table to assist jurisdictions in identifying opportunities to support their diversion programs. The Office for Civil Rights within the Department of Health and Human Services is also developing guidance to help jurisdictions understand how they can share data within the framework of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

•      Improving outcomes for Veterans through mental health services. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will work through its Veterans Justice Outreach Liaisons Specialists in DDJ communities to coordinate with local law-enforcement and other justice-system personnel as they develop mental-health diversion protocols to help ensure eligible Veterans are linked to VA benefits, including housing, healthcare, and access to mental health services. Approximately 7 percent of people in local jails are Veterans, and 55 percent of them have a mental illness. It is estimated that up to 80 percent of justice-involved Veterans may be eligible for VA healthcare services and benefits. The VA will work through its Veterans Justice Outreach Liaisons Specialists in DDJ communities to coordinate with local law-enforcement and other justice-system personnel as they develop mental-health diversion protocols to help ensure eligible Veterans are linked to VA benefits, including housing, healthcare, and access to mental health services. Additionally, as part of the MyVA Communities initiative, VA is working closely with local community Veterans engagement boards to identify collaboration with local, criminal justice-system stakeholders as an opportunity to improve Veteran outcomes.

•      Addressing individual needs through evidence-based interventions. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently awarded $8.7 million to seven organizations, including three who will work with DDJ communities, to address the needs of individuals cycling between the criminal justice system and homeless services. The grants will fund Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), an evidence-based intervention shown to lead to decreases in homelessness, arrests, hospitalization, and emergency room visits. HUD and DOJ's awards will help communities adopt a Pay for Success (PFS) funding strategy. Under PFS, Federal, state, or local governments pay only for positive outcomes achieved, such as decreased recidivism, often with private or philanthropic dollars financing the intervention upfront.

States, Cities, and Counties Joining the Data-Driven Justice Initiative

Today, 67 states, cities, and counties are committing to join the DDJ Initiative.


1. Connecticut

2. Illinois

3. Maryland

4. Oregon

5. Pennsylvania

6. Rhode Island

7. Utah

Cities and Counties

1. Albany, NY

2. Allegheny County, PA

3. Anne Arundel County, MD

4. Arapahoe County, CO

5. Bernalillo County, NM

6. Bexar County, TX

7. Black Hawk County, IA

8. Camden County, NJ

9. Champaign County, IL

10. Charleston County, SC

11. Clark County, NV

12. Coconino County, AZ

13. Codington County, SD

14. Dakota County, MN

15. Dallas County, TX

16. Denver, CO

17. Eau Claire County, WI

18. Everett, WA

19. Flagstaff, AZ

20. Franklin County, OH

21. Franklin County, PA

22. Fulton County, GA

23. Hood River County, OR

24. Hudson County, NJ

25. Jefferson County, KY

26. Johnson County, IA

27. Johnson County, KS

28. King County, WA

29. Knox County, TN

30. Lafayette Parish, LA

31. Lake County, IL

32. Leon County, FL

33. Los Angeles County, CA

34. Lucas County, OH

35. McLean County, IL

36. Mecklenburg County, NC

37. Miami-Dade County, FL

38. Milwaukee County, WI

39. Montgomery County, AL

40. Montgomery County, MD

41. Multnomah County, OR

42. New Orleans Parish, LA

43. New York, NY

44. Oakland, CA

45. Pima County, AZ

46. Pinellas County, FL

47. Polk County, IA

48. Ramsey County, MN

49. Rio Arriba County, NM

50. Salt Lake City, UT

51. Salt Lake County, UT

52. San Diego County, CA

53. San Francisco, CA

54. Santa Clara County, CA

55. Snohomish County, WA

56. Suffolk County, NY

57. Wake County, NC

58. Walla Walla County, WA

59. Washington, DC

60. Winona County, MN

Answering the Administration's Call to Action to Use Data to Safely Reduce Incarceration and Improve Outcomes

The Administration recently issued a call to action asking private-sector, philanthropic, and nonprofit organizations to take new steps to develop a smarter, more data-driven criminal justice system.

Many organizations have responded to this call to action with commitments to address the specific needs of communities adopting DDJ solutions. These commitments of support will enable DDJ communities to act more quickly to implement these solutions, accelerating progress towards safely reducing unnecessary incarceration.

Organizations responding to the call to action are providing critical and targeted support in four key areas: data; diversion and coordinated services; research on what works; and ongoing support and collaboration.

I. Data Use and Data Exchange

DDJ communities are taking new steps to link data from across the criminal justice and health systems to: identify the highest-need, highest-cost individuals who have come into frequent contact with law enforcement or emergency services; proactively link these individuals to supportive services that provide stability; decrease encounters with law enforcement; and reduce the costly overreliance on emergency medical treatment. The following organizations responded to the Administration's call to action by committing to help DDJ communities access and link data while protecting privacy.

National Support

•      Amazon Web Services (AWS)will convene a Technology and Research Consortium comprising a diverse range of technologists, data scientists, researchers, and private-sector collaborators to work with DDJ communities. The consortium will identify technology solutions to support the efforts of DDJ communities by reducing local jail populations and linking people to care. Appriss, the California Department of Justice, Code for America, Esri, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, MasterCard, Motorola Solutions, New York University School of Law's Criminal Justice Innovation Lab, Palantir, RapidSOS, RTI International, Socrata, TriggrHealth, and the University of Chicago Center for Data Science and Public Policy have each committed to join the consortium. AWS will also provide the cloud infrastructure to facilitate individual-level data exchange among relevant criminal justice and health-care practitioners in DDJ jurisdictions and a data repository for anonymized health and criminal justice data. This will enable the Consortium's practitioners and researchers to access and analyze these data sets to better understand populations of people who are frequently incarcerated, identify opportunities for early intervention, and test which programs are most effective. The Consortium will invite jurisdictions that contribute data to join a policy and governance working group to help guide the research agenda.

•      Appriss conducted and today is releasing a new analysis of data from over 3,000 local, criminal justice agencies to help DDJ communities identify indicators in jail data that appear to be most predictive of individuals at high risk of re-arrest, overdose, and housing instability or homelessness. DDJ jurisdictions can use these data fields to develop reports from their jail management systems to help identify individuals with frequent bookings for low-level offenses. Appriss is also releasing their national-level analysis of more than 9.8 million bookings from 2015 to identify arrest patterns and repeated bookings, finding more than 276,000 individuals across the country who had four or more bookings in 1 year. Using this analysis, Appriss is developing a data-driven product that will systematically identify individuals who meet data-validated criteria as high utilizers of multiple criminal justice and healthcare systems.

•      Esri will donate enterprise licenses to the first 100 DDJ communities for the purposes of research, development, testing, and demonstration of a pilot application using spatial technology so that communities can highlight and hotspot their relevant criminal justice and related data to identify opportunities for intervention.

•      MasterCardis leveraging its Center for Inclusive Growth, Advisors analytic processes, and APT "Test & Learn" technology to provide insights on the operational efficiencies and economic impact of DDJ programs in participating communities.

•      RTI Internationalwill release its Call for Service (CFS) Analytics as an open-source tool available to all participating DDJ jurisdictions. CFS Analytics provides law-enforcement agencies with the ability to analyze and visualize their calls for service data in order to identify emerging problems, monitor specific types of calls within and across local communities, and evaluate how police resources are being allocated. In addition, RTI International will partner with one or two jurisdictions to explore, in depth, how CFS Analytics can be used to identify and analyze patterns in calls for service related to mental health.

Support to Data-Driven Justice Communities

•      The Data Science for Social Good summer fellowship program, run by The University of Chicago's Center for Data Science and Public Policy will deploy a team to work with Johnson County, KS, and Salt Lake County, UT, utilizing data from the counties' criminal justice, health, behavioral health, and social services systems. This data will be used to identify individuals—often people with mental illness, substance abuse, and health problems—who repeatedly cycle through multiple systems, including jails, hospital emergency rooms, shelters, and other services, while protecting privacy. The results will help governments provide higher-quality, coordinated services.

•      New York University's (NYU) Governance Lab (The GovLab) has launched a Coaching Program for Data-Driven Criminal Justice Projects to provide 12 DDJ communities with a 10-week online coaching and mentoring program. The program will address strategies for sharing data among agencies to: mitigate the impact of bail, reduce recidivism, develop better programs for individuals with mental health and substance-use disorders, identify individuals who have had frequent contact with law enforcement and emergency medical services, and engage in more effective planning and coordination. The program will be repeated again in fall 2016.

•      RapidSOS is a mobile security platform that allows individuals to transmit precise location data, the type of emergency, relevant medical and demographic data, and even texts and videos to 911 with just one touch, enabling first responders to more quickly locate those in need. RapidSOS commits to providing their technology service to up to five cities or municipalities for free for 10 years, helping communities identify at-risk populations and geographies, and anticipate and preempt issues before they occur.

II. Assistance with Diversion and Coordinating Community-Based Services

DDJ communities have committed to help police and first responders divert those in a mental health crisis to a more appropriate alternative to jail or the emergency room. The following organizations answered the call to action, offering to help communities address these challenges by providing expert technical assistance on design and delivery of supportive services, developing new tools for police to facilitate diversion, and preventing reentry of those currently in jail. These offers include:

A. Technical Assistance and Capacity

National Support

•      Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) will support DDJ communities in developing and implementing coordinated community-based housing and support services. In addition, CSH will sponsor a DDJ learning collaborative to share information and best practices to all DDJ jurisdictions; provide training and solutions to key challenges to sharing data and providing services; offer its expertise in data analysis and integration; provide programmatic advice; and help jurisdictions develop integrated strategies to improve outcomes for the target populations.

•      Association of Prosecuting Attorneyswill expand its efforts to educate the nation's prosecutors on alternatives to jail for low-level offenders and will boost assistance for prosecutors in all DDJ communities to make sure they are connected to their law enforcement and healthcare partners.

•      Community Catalyst will provide support and technical assistance to DDJ jurisdictions by sharing best practices for engaging consumer organizations in criminal justice diversion initiatives. Community Catalyst will conduct a national webinar, post a publicly accessible recording on its website, encourage consumer advocates to participate in these initiatives, and share contacts and strategies to help hospitals engage in data-driven diversion initiatives.

•      The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) will create and facilitate a national Data-Driven Justice Initiative Working Group on Housing that will be open to all DDJ communities to provide training on legal and policy issues related to homelessness, criminal justice, and housing, and will share tools, best practices, and peer learning opportunities.

Support to Data-Driven Justice Communities:

•      ODH, Inc. will work with up to three DDJ local government or not-for-profit entities to use ODH's newly-developed Mentrics technology, which relies on data analytics to predict those community members suffering from mental illness who are at most risk of incarceration and would benefit from services to prevent incarceration or recidivism.

•      Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC)will work with seven DDJ jurisdictions to create plans to safely divert people with non-violent charges away from the justice system and into substance-use and mental healthcare services in the community. Plans will include: ensuring the engagement of appropriate high-level stakeholders; defining the problem and stating the challenge; forming the local-systems change team; ensuring agreement on shared outcomes; and clearly articulating the current status and immediate action steps at regular intervals.

•      Social Solutions and IDEO are partnering for the Social Innovation Festival Design Challenge: a call to changemakers to use data and design to reimagine Washington, DC's criminal justice system. One of the focal points of the Design Challenge will be to help identify innovative ways to implement the DDJ strategies and effectively link people to community-based services.

B. Supporting Police and First Responders with New Tools

•      Code for America is working with the Seattle Police Department to develop an open-source, mobile app for patrol officers to use to effectively respond to individuals in crises related to mental health, who are also in frequent contact with the police. Focused on making individualized response plans more available to officers in the field, the tool will include specific action steps to help the person connect with prevention services and treatment. Once developed, the tool will be available to all DDJ communities. Code for America will also pilot a jail-population management dashboard in up to four DDJ communities to facilitate real-time use of jail data to help identify opportunities to safely reduce jail populations through pre-trial release or other alternatives to incarceration.

•      New York University School of Law'snew initiative for criminal justice innovation, the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab, will develop a mental health assessment tool to identify people who suffer from mental illness before they have entered the criminal justice system. This tool will help law enforcement divert those in need of medical or mental health treatment.

C. Reentry Prevention

•      A Managed Care Organization under Washington AppleHealth Medicaidand the Jail Health Services division of Public Health Seattle & King County are developing a demonstration project to allow managed-care community health workers and care coordinators to enter the King County jails to conduct release planning and transitional-care services. Building from existing work centered on creating a system of integrated care for populations with complex health needs, this pilot will test innovative ways to share data for clients who receive treatment by both providers, while protecting privacy and seeking to ensure continuity of care and appropriate support for shared clients when they are leaving jail.

•      Triggr Health will work with multiple DDJ communities to prevent re-incarceration for people with substance-use disorders. By using real-time phone data, Triggr Health aims to reach people at times of highest need and increase the odds of individuals reaching long-term substance-use recovery.

III. Conducting Research to Know What Works and Continually Improve Outcomes

DDJ communities are adopting data-driven and innovative practices. Outside support through research and ongoing evaluation will help improve outcomes while helping to build a knowledge base from which other communities can learn. Commitments include:

Using Data to Identify Trends and Test Interventions

•      The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF)will support the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) to select two DDJ communities to pilot data-integration initiatives. Both pilot communities will integrate housing, homelessness, and criminal justice data to support strategic placement decisions concerning frequent utilizers of multiple systems. An independent evaluation will inform future supportive housing initiatives nationally. LJAF has also launched a funding initiative that supports randomized controlled trials to evaluate criminal justice programs or strategies. LJAF encourages applications from DDJ jurisdictions to build rigorous evidence about best practices to improve public safety, community-police relations, and other important criminal justice outcomes.

•      BetaGov, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, is partnering with the Albany Police Department to test crisis-intervention training strategies for officers in collaboration with local mental health resources. BetaGov will help the Albany Police Department rapidly test tools that assist responding officers in identifying mental health and substance abuse-related crises, identifying strategies that reduce incarceration without compromising public safety, and then adapt them for use in jurisdictions throughout the country.

IV. Ongoing Support and Convenings

•      National Association of Counties (NACo) will engage their Health, Human Services, Justice and Public Safety, and Telecommunications and Technology Committees to convene county officials, national stakeholders, and experts focused on identifying best practices, surfacing innovation, and helping to connect counties interested in joining the DDJ Initiative to resources, tools, and subject-matter experts. NACo will also create an online resource library for participating and interested jurisdictions to learn more about the DDJ strategies and how to join the Initiative. Leveraging its partnerships with private foundations, national associations and organizations, academics, and Federal government agencies, NACo will also provide educational opportunities through conference workshops, webinars, and virtual discussions for county officials to learn from experts and peers on strategies to identify and implement data-driven criminal justice policies, practices, and programs.

•      The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (MacArthur), through its $75 million Safety and Justice Challenge, is supporting several DDJ and other jurisdictions to reduce over-incarceration in jails. MacArthur will collaborate with communities and nonprofit partners in the DDJ Initiative to enable learning, facilitate adoption of best practices, and spark innovation. Today, MacArthur is announcing a new $1.8 million Innovation Fund at the Urban Institute to award grants and provide technical assistance to help DDJ and other communities create change on the ground and extend a national movement to promote reforms across the country.

•      National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) represents individuals and families directly affected by mental illness. NAMI will provide expert support to DDJ jurisdictions on the most effective ways to create relationships between policymakers and community mental health advocates to help implement effective mental health and support services that meet the needs of individuals and families. At the local, state, and national level, NAMI will work to help educate and inform policymakers about the importance of collecting data to shape reforms to the criminal justice and mental health systems.

•      Prysm,a technology company that provides cloud-based visual workspaces, will host a meeting of DDJ communities, technologists, startups, and subject-matter experts in Silicon Valley to help connect local governments to potential technology collaborators.

State-Led Convenings

•      California's Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, along with other state and local partners, will host a convening for up to 20 California counties, including the five California counties that have already joined the DDJ initiative, focused on ways to most effectively leverage state and local data.

•      Connecticut will convene a special joint meeting of its Criminal Justice Policy and Oversight Committee (CJPAC) and the Sentencing Commission, and local law enforcement and government leadership, which will focus on DDJ and options for developing strong pre-arrest diversion programs.

•      Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and the Illinois Health & Hospital Associationwill collaborate to host a convening of participating and interested Illinois counties to help identify opportunities for engagement with hospitals and relevant stakeholders at the local level, and surface and share best practices to reduce hospital readmissions and preventable emergency-room visits, and improve health.

•      The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission and Multnomah County will join Oregon counties in their Regional Implementation Councils to co-host a workshop on DDJ strategies, identifying ways to leverage the state's Justice Reinvestment efforts to reduce recidivism.

•      The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) will co-host a Data-Driven Justice focused discussion for the Courts and Corrections and Human Services Committees at the CCAP annual conference in August, 2016.

•      The Rhode Island Governor's Office will work with state public safety agencies, health agencies, and the Rhode Island Innovative Policy Lab to convene state and local partners to discuss the adoption and implementation of data-driven criminal justice reform strategies.

•      Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, together with the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice and the Sorenson Impact Center, will co-host a DDJ workshop at their annual Innovation Summit to be held in January 2017, for counties from across the nation interested in participating in DDJ.

If you would like to respond to the Call to Action, please go to:

Barack Obama, Fact Sheet: Launching the Data-Driven Justice Initiative: Disrupting the Cycle of Incarceration Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives