In an effort to improve the criminal justice system in one part of Kentucky, the Louisville Metro Government last month partnered with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) to design tools, pilot innovations and test system reforms to increase public safety, make the criminal justice system run more efficiently and fairly, and be more cost-effective.

The project's first phase includes extensive data collection from system agencies and a comprehensive data analysis that will be used to identify potential pre-trial interventions for implementation, according to Kim Allen, executive director of the Louisville Metro Criminal Justice Commission.

"Since we don’t yet know what the data may tell us, we can’t identify the pre-trial interventions at this point," Allen said. "However, the interventions could be targeted pre-trial programs and enhanced technology that promote system efficiency."

For example, she said, technology applications may be developed to better share information among all the system agencies and partners, which may reduce processing times.

"One specific application that's been discussed as an option is a court notification system [to] remind defendants of court dates," Allen added. "If fewer defendants are failing to appear for court, workloads may be reduced, [there are] less bench warrants to serve and smaller dockets."

And once the pilot is completed, she says, the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) will have access to the data analysis -- which it could use in several ways.

"For example, it should provide a better understanding of overall operations," she said, "and they could target law enforcement initiatives, identify changes to policy or practice, or enhance or amend training."

Helping to oversee the project is the Louisville Metro Criminal Justice Commission Board, of which the LMPD is a member. Because the first phase of the project includes extensive data collection from system agencies, LMPD is at the forefront as one of the agencies providing the data.

According to Anne Milgram, vice president of Criminal Justice for the LJAF -- a private foundation focused on criminal justice, education, public accountability and research integrity -- the foundation chose to partner with Louisville Metro Government and Jefferson County, "because all of the criminal justice leaders expressed a strong commitment to examining the data on crime and justice in Louisville," she said, "and collaborating on innovative solutions to the issues they identify."

Milgram says the police chief will be involved in all of the key decisions, not just in his role as chief, but as a member of the Louisville Metro Criminal Justice Commission that's leading this project.

She believes that data, analytics and technology can be used to improve all aspects of the criminal justice system. Police departments nationwide have been heading up similar efforts that, in her opinion, have already done so much to help law enforcement officers work smarter and more effectively to reduce crime.

But, she says, more can be done.

“One of the unique things this partnership will offer is a chance to link the data from all of the criminal justice agencies, [police, prosecutors, courts and jails] to find ways to do even more for public safety with existing resources,” she said. “This integrated approach has the potential to maximize the impact of policing in a way that no department could do on its own.”

The work aims to develop models of change that are applicable to not only one city or to one state, but jurisdictions nationwide. Improvements made in Louisville should be able to serve as templates for change nationwide.

Some improvement it hopes to make include reducing jail overcrowding, piloting risk assessment instruments that can help courts determine which defendants pose risks to public safety, testing different methods of supervision and electronic monitoring, reminders and notifications of court dates via text message, studying court processing times and increasing efficiency, as well as modeling and evaluating system dynamics to help identify systematic problems.

"This innovative project has the potential to positively impact our city in significant ways," said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. "Using data to seek answers to our complex pre-trial issues will help us see the bigger picture and design solutions."

Kimberly Horg  |  Contributing Writer

Kimberly is a California-based writer who earned her Bachelors of Arts in Journalism from Humboldt State University, and has hundreds of articles published throughout the country on such subjects as health, science, education, entertainment, business and politics.