White House Announces Data-Driven Justice Initiative

The White House today announced a new initiative intended to help divert low-level offenders from jail, particularly those with mental illness or low-risk individuals who cannot afford bail.

The newly announced effort, called the Data-Driven Justice Initiative, will work with at least seven states and 60 local jurisdictions, providing them with a variety of supports from public and private sources.

According to the White House, 64 percent of people in local jails suffer from mental illness, 68 percent have a substance abuse disorder, and 44 percent suffer from chronic health problems.

The initiative will help link data across criminal justice and health systems to identify these individuals and provide law enforcement officials — who are sometimes referred to as “social workers in blue” — with the tools they need to divert them to needed social services instead of placing them in jail.

The initiative comes late in President Obama’s term in office. It is unclear what the plans are for sustaining it into 2017 and beyond.  However, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, its prospects would likely be greater.

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