D.C. Gets Kudos For Efforts To Keep Homeless Out Of Jail

Every year, local governments — also known as the taxpayers — pony up at least $22 billion to provide housing for the homeless. In jail.

That’s the conclusion of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s Data-Driven Justice (DDJ) initiative. Of the nation’s population of prisoners, the initiative has found, 64 percent suffer from mental illness; 68 percent have a substance abuse disorder and 44 percent have chronic health conditions. To officials at the foundation, that means too many homeless people are being incarcerated for low-level, nonviolent misdemeanors.

But a leader of the group is praising D.C. as a model in attempting to alter that reality.

“D.C. is a great example of a system that operates really well across all the key stakeholders,” said Lynn Overmann, vice president of the Arnold Foundation’s DDJ. “They bring behavioral health, police, the court systems, and Medicaid all to the table.”


Iowa City wins Amazon City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge

Amazon announced this morning that Iowa City is the winner of the company’s Dream Big Award as part of its City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge.

The City will receive $25,000 worth of cloud services to be used toward its Data-Driven Justice Initiative, which seeks to use data to identify people who would benefit from a pre-jail diversion program. Iowa City Police Officer David Schwindt was in Washington D.C. to accept the award on behalf of the City during the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit.

“We have anxiously been awaiting Amazon’s announcement after being named a top 5 finalist and we are thrilled,” Iowa City Police Chief Jody Matherly said. “This award from Amazon will help give us the tools we need to identify those who have complex needs and help keep them out of jail and the ER.”

The initiative aims to divert low-level offenders, who are living with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders, out of the criminal justice system. Using this data, local service providers would be able to provide pro-active mental health and substance abuse treatment that could reduce repeat offenses, while also decreasing incarceration and emergency medical service costs. 

The City is working with Johnson County and Shelter House on this ongoing initiative.

Amazon’s Dream Big Award is designed to help a city or school implement a great idea. 


Laura and John Arnold Foundation to continue data-driven criminal justice effort launched under the Obama Administration

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) announced today that it is dramatically expanding its efforts to use data and analytics in order to address challenges in the criminal justice system. Former White House advisors Lynn Overmann and Kelly Jin have joined the Foundation to continue the work they began under the Obama Administration’s Data-Driven Justice initiative.

Ms. Overmann, LJAF’s new vice president of data-driven justice, has a distinguished career in the federal government and most recently served as the senior advisor to the U.S. chief technology officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Ms. Jin, LJAF’s new director of data-driven justice, was an advisor to the U.S. chief technology officer and chief data scientist in the OSTP.

Ms. Overmann and Ms. Jin helped launch the White House Data-Driven Justice initiative focused on using data to identify individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders, and chronic health problems who are frequently involved with local criminal justice and health care systems. In order to better serve this population and save tax dollars, the initiative is collaborating with Amazon Web Services and other technology companies to build a secure, cloud-based platform designed to make it easier for jurisdictions to combine, anonymize, and share data. The technology provides insights into risk factors and helps to pinpoint opportunities to deliver proactive, preventive services aimed at reducing costly jail stays and hospital visits, while providing stability and opportunities for people to improve their lives.

The initiative, started in June 2016, has developed a growing bipartisan coalition of 140 city, county, and state governments. These jurisdictions cover a population of more than 94 million Americans and range from rural counties such as Potter County, Pennsylvania, to some of the largest metro areas in the country such as Los Angeles County, California.

As members of the LJAF team, Ms. Overmann and Ms. Jin will continue to help communities link their privacy-protected criminal justice and health care datasets, allowing them to look across records like 911 calls, arrests, jail bookings, hospital emergency room admissions, and behavioral health service files to find more effective, less costly interventions. The initial results are positive: communities participating in the initiative report better outcomes for their residents and cost savings.