County officials receive first results from justice system review
A non-profit specializing in criminal justice assessments has completed a first round review on the county’s justice system citing inefficiencies and the need to modernize the system as reasons behind a higher than average jail population and recidivism rates.
Galveston County entered into an engagement with the Council of State Governments – Justice Center in March to complete an assessment of the county justice system and mental health services for justice involved mentally ill persons.
The preliminary report focused on addressing four key areas: jail population, recidivism, mental health and the creation of a pretrial release supervision program.
“I look forward to the conversation between all elected officials involved in the system to discuss the recommendations and work towards a consensus in implementing the changes we desperately need.” County Judge Mark Henry said. “We need to modernize our justice system to improve public safety and more efficiently manage resources. Our goal is to provide the resources necessary to make those changes.”
Prior to embarking on the independent assessment with the Justice Center, an engagement letter was signed by majority of all the county elected officials involved in the criminal justice system, except for a select few of the district court judges.
According to the report, Galveston County’s jail population spiked in late Fall 2016, which prompted the review by the Justice Center. However, the county’s crime rate has continued to decrease over the past few years despite population increases.
Dr. Tony Fabelo, Deputy Director of the Justice Center, headed the assessment team. Dr. Fabelo has over 35 years of policy and research experience in Texas and nationally, having worked with state government officials and local leaders in improving criminal justice policies.
The Justice Center partnered with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and interviewed over 66 law enforcement, county justice and mental health system officials. The team plans on scheduling a series of onsite visits for meetings and workshops to present the findings. The preliminary report was released Monday afternoon to local officials with a request for feedback to the Justice Center by Friday, July 14. A meeting with both county and district judges is scheduled for August.