|Criminal Justice Action Plan Development
In September 2020, the Board of Supervisors held their annual strategic planning session and approved a new strategy for the 2020-2025 County Strategic Plan that included the development of a criminal justice action plan to reduce racial disparities in Yolo County's criminal justice system. Since October 2020, staff from Yolo County and the Cities have met to discuss the scope, timeline, and development of this criminal justice action plan, seeking to develop a draft for Board feedback by June 2021. Along the way, staff have briefed the Board’s CCP/Criminal Justice Issues Ad Hoc Subcommittee on these efforts.
The overall consensus of this group and the Ad Hoc Board Subcommittee is that developing a full-blown action plan from the 30,000-foot level would never be feasible for implementation in a reasonable timeline. Therefore, the group has adjusted its efforts to hone in on several pilot projects and/or process evaluations that fit within the framework of a criminal justice action plan. Specifically, this group has determined that identifying specific decision-making points in the criminal justice system as well as the public health and child welfare system, can teach the County more about methods to identify where bias is occurring and to make policy and/or programmatic changes that can be measured and altered over time.
With this in mind, staff have developed a draft Action Plan that recommends moving forward with the following projects/processes:
Staff recommends developing these three projects/processes at a base level and then evaluating whether or not another layer of data should be added to more finely tune a population that can be served in an immediate and impactful way. Other data for consideration include income, mental health/Serious Mental Illness status, Substance Use Disorder, access to education, healthcare, jobs, etc. Based on the final population that is being targeted, the Criminal Justice Action Planning team could then define treatment or resources for the given population, likely focusing on the in-custody individuals first.
- Developing a data set using race and length of stay to provide the County with a population that can be targeted for treatment/programs in custody;
- Developing a data set using domestic violence case data, seeking to parse out racial disparities and other determinants of health; and
- Identifying a process evaluation based on race and "Supervised Own Recognizance" (Supervised OR) to compare total evaluations of Supervised OR against placements on Supervised OR for Black individuals countywide
In addition to this information, a full update on the work of the Criminal Justice Action Plan Work Group to date can be found in Attachment A of this staff report.
Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Tool Validation Report
Linked to the Criminal Justice Action Plan is the recent Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Tool Validation Report developed by the Bauman Consulting Group. The completion of the Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Tool Validation Report allows the development of the aforementioned Criminal Justice Action Plan as it is one of the starting points for the process evaluation project that will analyze how the Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Tool has been used to date, its effectiveness and areas for improvement. Background information on the Validation Report and its requirements may be found below.
Background on Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Tool Validation Report
In 2010, the Probation Department was awarded a Byrne Foundation grant to establish and operate a Pre-Trial Unit for three years. The Pre-Trial Unit is now largely funded through the Community Corrections Partnership to help ensure equal, timely, and just administration of laws governing pre-trial release for those accused of a crime and deemed suitable for release from detention pending trial.
Pre-Trial functions are critical to the effective operation of local criminal justice systems by assisting the Court in making prompt, fair, and effective release/detention decisions, and by monitoring and supervising released defendants to minimize the risk of non-appearance at court proceedings and risk to public safety. The Pre-Trial Unit is charged with compiling reliable and objective information relevant to the Court’s determination concerning pre-trial release. If a defendant is not qualified for release on their own recognizance, imposition of conditions of release are considered. The Pre-Trial Unit also provides supervised release services that are the least restrictive conditions necessary to assure the defendant’s appearance in court, to protect the safety of the community, and to safeguard the integrity of the judicial process.
Since 2010, the Probation Department has utilized a scholarly-based Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Instrument from the University of Cincinnati called the Ohio Risk Assessment System. The decision to use this tool was in part based on a recommendation by the Pre-Trial Justice Institute and other experts in pre-trial services. In February 2020, the Pre-Trial Justice Institute changed course and recommended that pre-trial units no longer use a Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Instrument as part of their determination of Supervision of Own Recognizance based on their determination that “use of a reliable and valid Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Instrument precludes reductions in pre-trial detention and increases racial and ethnic disparities.”
In October 2019, Senate Bill 36 was signed into law requiring each pre-trial agency that uses a Pre-trial Risk Assessment Instrument to validate that tool by January 1, 2021. In March 2020, the Probation Department initiated a Request for Proposals process for that purpose and a contract was awarded in May 2020 to the Bauman Consulting Group to validate Yolo County’s Pre-trial Risk Assessment Instrument. As part of the effort, the Department provided four years of risk assessment data (over 1,200 assessments) for a local validation report.
In April 2021, the Probation Department received the final version of the local validation report (Attachment B) which concluded the following:
- Two goals of pretrial release policy:
- allow pretrial release whenever possible --> avoid jailing a defendant during the period between his arrest and court disposition.
- to minimize the risk to the public of defendants failing to appear and committing new crimes during their pre-trial release period.
- Being detained pretrial was the strongest predictor of negative outcomes
- No pretrial risk assessment is universally applicable. Tools need to be modified and validated for each jurisdiction that is using them
- It is important to design, evaluate and implement assessment tools locally
- Risk assessments should be revalidated on a regular basis to ensure that they continue to retain their predictive validity
- Purpose of the study:
- Test validity
- Measure bias
- The Ohio Risk Assessment Tool can make valid risk predictions based on an individual's risk score or level
For more information on Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Instruments and the Yolo County’s Probation Department’s continued use of the Ohio Risk Assessment Tool, see the Department’s December 15, 2020 presentation to the Judicial Council (Attachment C).
- No statistically significant bias was found based on race, gender, age, nor crime type