Today, local criminal justice planning and coordination refers to the function in which local governmental and community entities within a county's boundaries partner with one another to promote, coordinate and evaluate the administration of the local criminal justice system. Justice system planning and coordination can also occur at the state level. For local criminal justice planning functions to be successful, there are two necessary components: (1) a criminal justice coordinating committee with appropriate membership and leadership; and (2) sufficient planning/analytical staff.
A criminal justice coordinating committee is comprised of elected officials and top policy makers from criminal justice agencies, general government, and community organizations within a county. These leaders meet on a regular basis to proceed through a policy planning process, and they consensually revise or create policies to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the local criminal justice system. These policies can help the local justice system achieve its desired goals (e.g., public safety, fair and just system) while managing the workload of the various criminal justice agencies and preventing or reducing jail crowding.
One or more planning staff provides the committee with ideas (e.g., innovative procedures or evidence-based programs) and information (e.g., data about subpopulations of inmates who are driving the increased demand for jail beds, possible workload and monetary outcomes that could result from possible decisions) that enable the committee to understand and analyze issues and make informed, data-driven policy decisions. Planning staff members typically have a combination of knowledge, skills and abilities that enable them to identify, research, analyze and propose solutions to a wide variety of issues facing the local criminal justice system. Jurisdictions often begin with one or two planning staff and increase the number of staff as the committee takes on a larger number of and more sophisticated initiatives.
The National Institute of Corrections (NIC), part of the U.S. Department of Justice, offers information and technical assistance to local jurisdictions that want to develop or improve their justice system planning and coordination and address pressing issues such as jail crowding. Technical assistance is available at no cost to local government in the form of Jail and Justice System Assessments, in which one or more consultants visit a jurisdiction, meet with criminal justice policy makers and provide recommendations to improving planning coordination within the local justice system. Information is available in the publication "Guidelines for Developing a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee," in which time-tested practices for forming and operating a local policy planning committee are clearly and simply described.
Jefferson County Criminal Justice Planning
The beginnings of criminal justice planning in Jefferson County, Colorado, date back to the early 1990s. At that time, local officials were unable to regulate the annual increase in the county jail population and witnessed the jail population grow beyond the jail's capacity. To help local officials regulate the growth of the jail population in the mid-1990's, two independent consultants, one of which was sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections, assessed the dynamics of the local criminal justice system and provided recommendations for improvement. The most important recommendations were to form a criminal justice coordinating committee that could make policy changes, hire planning staff to support the committee, and adopt a comprehensive, systemwide perspective that is not limited to the jail.
In 1996, the Jefferson County Criminal Justice Strategic Planning Committee (CJSPC) was formed. A short time later, a criminal justice planner/analyst was hired. The county now had the essential components to make informed and evidence-based policy decisions to regulate the jail population and manage the overall workload of the local criminal justice system.
From 1996 to present, the Criminal Justice Strategic Planning Committee and the staff who have supported it have been responsible for numerous improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of the local justice system. The perennial achievements of Jefferson County's criminal justice planning function have inspired neighboring counties in Colorado and other states to develop a similar planning and coordination function. The county's criminal justice planning function has grown over the years such that the Committee continues to meet on a regular basis, and a Criminal Justice Planning Unit of several full- and part-time planning/analytical staff supports the Committee's work. The Committee and its staff are always pleased to offer guidance to other jurisdictins in their quest to develop their capacity for systemwide planning and coordination The criminal justice planning staff is housed in the Jefferson County Justice Services Division.
Last Modified: Jul 7, 2011 09:45 AM