Charleston County’s criminal justice reform group solicits community representation
Nov 16, 2016
Changes are underway in the practices of our local criminal justice system in an effort to create a more effective system. The men and women at the forefront of our system have been collaborating with community members and agencies around the County in order to design and implement significant reforms, that would impact several processes in criminal justice and they want more of the community’s input.
In 2015, the Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council sought a national, competitive grant and outlined a reform plan aiming to safely decrease the jail population of the Al Cannon Detention Center by 25 percent in three years as well as addressing racial and ethnic disproportionalities in our justice system. In April, the CJCC announced it had received the Safety and Justice Challenge grant for $2.25 million from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Charleston County was one of 11 jurisdictions nationwide selected to participate. This grant meant funding and technical assistance from national experts in implementing a six-strategy plan.
“These strategies help us to better sort the high risk from the low risk, keeping dangerous people behind bars and providing law enforcement and the courts more appropriate options when dealing with low-risk offenders,” said CJCC Chairman and Charleston County Sheriff’s Office Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas.
The CJCC’s strategies include:
- Providing law enforcement with a toolkit to assist with the decision-making process during time of arrest.
- Providing law enforcement with alternatives to jail for individuals suffering from mental illness, substance abuse or behavioral issues.
- Launching an automated court reminder system, which is aimed at reducing the number of criminal bench warrants issued.
- Enhancing the bail-setting process by providing screening tools to judges to assist in the risk-assessment of defendants. This includes moving a public defender into the Centralized Bond Court to streamline the process of determining if a defendant is eligible for a public defender based on financial need, representing the defendant during the bail-setting process and increasing consistency of counsel representation throughout the judicial process.
- Reducing the amount of time it takes for General Session cases to be resolved.
- Creating a centralized “data warehouse” in order to share information between agencies and further study and develop improvements.
In June, the CJCC also announced its involvement in the White House Data-Driven Initiative, which includes further technical assistance and networking opportunities with other jurisdictions.
Between November and December, the CJCC is seeking community representatives for membership to represent the diverse needs and concerns of the County’s residents and provide feedback and input on the development and implementation of reform strategies. The CJCC will fill 10 community representative spots that make up several areas of interest in the County including the following:
- local civil rights community
- local faith community
- local Hispanic community
- local nonprofit community
- local healthcare community
- local business community
- local defense bar
- local graduate program community in related fields of study (e.g., public policy, law, criminal justice, public health, psychology, etc.)
- local community at-large
- One designated liaison from any other entity deemed appropriate by the Executive Committee.
All community representatives will be encouraged to attend the CJCC’s monthly meetings and will elect one of the representatives to act as a voting member.
“It is vital for members of this community to have a voice in this transformational process so we urge you to participate by submitting an application as a community representative,” said CJCC Co-Chair and Charleston Center Director Dr. Chanda Brown.