FUSE Corps Fellowship Interim Project Status Report - May 2020
The May 2020 FUSE Fellowship Interim Project Status Report includes the project summary, key accomplishments, challenges, responses and recommendations.
Summary and Key Accomplishments
The second year of the fellowship with the City of St. Louis centered around criminal justice reform and formalizing a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) and a data sharing ecosystem across justice and health domains, to ensure more and better access to behavioral and physical health services, was possible.
During the first year of the fellowship, the executive adviser to the mayor - Debbie Allen - has brought a collaborative governance structure to the criminal justice agencies in St. Louis through the development of the CJCC. Since the last report, the St. Louis CJCC is now a formal legal entity, the first of its kind in Missouri and the region. The CJCC will serve as a model for policies, practices, and trust-building in the criminal justice space nationally. As of May 2020, the Intergovernmental Cooperative Agreement (ICA) and Bylaws of the CJCC will be adopted and approved by all the participating agencies. The CJCC is also planning to adopt an Intergovernmental Information Sharing Agreement. The City is only the third in the country to cross-collaborate between criminal justice organizations and the public health sector for data sharing. To accomplish this, trust was built between the two systems, diminishing fears of liability. Debbie and her team implemented the proper governance through agreements and utilized open source technology to develop dashboards and an analytics toolset, so anyone can replicate the practices implemented during the process.
Since the prior reporting, Debbie has continued to build significant momentum in stakeholder commitment to transparency and information sharing. Internal and external stakeholders in the local criminal justice system consistently look outside of their group or organization for guidance and collaboration - planning and solving problems together. Debbie reports that teams now bring any new ideas and process changes to the wider CJCC community to determine how they might impact the wider system. For example, the 22nd Judicial Circuit Treatment Court shared with the CJCC that they were having trouble formalizing information sharing agreements and building an internal structure. The CJCC was able to address the problem immediately, as the Circuit needed to utilize a different type of contract agreement to receive behavioral health information (via a screening assessment) captured during intake by the City’s Corrections Division, and form a project charter. This example demonstrates how the structure of the CJCC acts as a capacity builder, allowing for an increased knowledge base, looking critically at all interactions in the system, and keeping all teams accountable.
Debbie reported that the CJCC has also ushered in other impressive changes through the CJCC’s hard working committees and working groups. For example, mapping of the data sharing and technical capabilities of the entire local criminal justice system, mapping the local criminal justice system using the SAMHSA GAINS Institute’s Sequential Intercept Model, implementing governance through agreements between collaborative agencies, developing data exchanges between criminal justice and public health agencies to inform policies and practices, helping to implement the Missouri Supreme Court rule changes pursuant to Rule 33.01, improving the completeness and accuracy of criminal history information, and state and local warrant processing, and coordinating city and state court dockets has all been completed. Debbie explained that thirty feet of data maps were completed in just 30 days, and that process, all agencies were able to recognize their own capacity and now know how to leverage this capacity both internally and externally. Debbie expressed that during this process, these stakeholders also learned to talk with each other, instead of talking at each other - a truly transformational moment. The City of St. Louis’s criminal justice system continues to make tremendous strides, institutionalizing these culture changes to achieve the overall goal of healthier communities and families.
On the immediate horizon, under Debbie’s direction, the CJCC plans to continue to be committed to supporting the development of a well-designed and well-managed pretrial services program to help their local criminal justice system function more fairly and more effectively for all citizens. The CJCC’s Executive Director will allocate time serving as an impartial expert to help the Committee’s work within an Evidence-Based Decision-Making framework informed by data and information. The Executive Director will connect the Committees to best-practices models, practices, and policies, continuing to break down silos and build partnerships with all sectors that interact with the CJCC.
Challenges and Our Response
We are pleased to report that while the COVID-19 pandemic was the most unexpected change to the project process so far, the pandemic has not impacted the CJCC’s priorities or Debbie’s current tasks. Debbie has communicated that the virtual workforce of the CJCC has allowed for systems collaboration through virtual meetings and the ability to multitask in ways the CJCC couldn't before. The collapse of silos Debbie fostered during the first year of her fellowship, has aided in the CJCC’s response during this crisis. Under her direction, the CJCC was immediately able to bring together a task force and collaborate on how COVID-19 would intersect with and impact CJCC responsibilities and the broader criminal justice system. The fellow reports that she is working across teams to continue to address the now heightened priority of equity - equity in the economy, with resources, and for access to opportunities.
The CJCC, especially in light of COVID-19, has broadened the conversation about the intersection of public health, housing, and criminal justice. Debbie is now also analyzing the ‘drivers’ into the criminal justice system and how to address them. For example, she is looking at the increase of the homelessness population in the City of St. Louis, an increase which causes further public health issues. Not only is social distancing nearly impossible in shelters or tent spaces, but this population is already medically disadvantaged and may face mental health and substance abuse issues. The CJCC is looking at housing stability, socioeconomic, and racial issues in the long term for this population, as well as the potential increase in homelessness that will arise from COVID-19 based unemployment.
Reflections and Recommendations
As for insights, Debbie advises others embarking on similar work, that they should practice mindfulness in the implementation and design of a CJCC. She explains that the structure of the CJCC must be looked at from all perspectives. This means establishing connections and listening to the entire spectrum of needs, ranging from someone who is criminally justice involved to the administration of the city. The utilization of human-centered design and the research of best practices is critical for success, as the implementation of the CJCC and its ideas must fit legal parameters, and resources, services and treatments must meet the needs of the populations served. Debbie also offers that sustainability and accountability must be kept at the forefront of all design. She explained that “you are accountable for utilizing taxpayer dollars properly, which means complying with legal boundaries, while also having to innovate to make a real difference for the community.” Recognizing small wins, such as ensuring agreements are safe and that the project is functional, builds a solid foundation for the City to achieve incredible transformation and meet its goals.