Sept. report, part 1: Detention, Probation and Covid-19

2-PAC met by Zoom on Sept 14 at 6 PM.  24 attenders

CHANGES IN DETENTION PRACTICES
The following is a summary by Emilie Quast of the “Detention Reduction”,  report on a Hennepin County initiative to improve outcomes for folks arrested in Hennepin County. 

Hennepin County District Court saw a need to change the rules for pretrial detention several years before Covid-19 made that a critical health issue. In 2016, the 4th Judicial District Court formed a team with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Hennepin County Community Corrections and Rehabilitation, Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Dept., Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office, Minneapolis Police Dept., suburban police departments and Hennepin County Administration.

Team members began looking for standards to reduce holding and incarceration rates.   The ultimate goal was to find better ways to improve the chances of good outcomes (change of behavior) in the folks who’d been cited or arrested.  The program was named the “Adult Detention Initiative”.

The Initiative has always had a single two-part goal which is to make sure that pre-trial detention is only applied to individuals who:

  •  Pose a threat to public safety,  OR
  •  Have a high risk of not appearing for their court hearings.

The committee had already begun reviewing individual cases when Covid-19 appeared here.  Because safe distancing and other safety rules can’t be followed in crowded jails, the team stepped up the rate of reviews to get the program moving faster.  It certainly helped that some of the groundwork was already in place and being tested

The multipart procedure is working well enough:

  • Bail reviews and hearings by judges take place early in the procedure.
  • People arrested on Hennepin warrants in any county receive multiple reviews to see if they can be released without bail.
  • Certain levels of authority were delegated to the County Probation Dept. to review for release on conditions.
  • All inmates at the Hennepin County workhouse who  were released daily to go to work were placed on electronic home monitoring instead of having to return to jail.

Also, people who were out of custody but were sentenced to serve time in the workhouse, had their “Report to the Workhouse” dates pushed back in the calendar to avoid adding to the workhouse population.

The District Court-led programs and initiatives are outlined in the document cited later in this report.

The document also lists programs NOT led by the District Court.  These include Sign and Release, Book-and-Release, Meet and Release, Same-Day Release, and a program we
hear about in Courtwatch quite often, Restorative Court.

Restorative Court puts offenders charged with relatively minor offenses, livability offenses,  in contact with social workers instead of a judge or Probation Officers.  The goal of Restorative Court  is to let the offender “Restore” the harm he’s done to the community by working on services in the community.  This program also reduces the number of bench warrants being written up because people missed their court dates.   A typical Restorative Court offense would be loitering or public urination.

The group worked on five different strategies:

  • Alternatives for the mentally ill.
  • Encouraging probation compliance to avoid unnecessary arrest and detention (A&D) warrants.
  • Alternatives to Bench Warrants.
  • Eliminating unnecessary delays.
  • Ensuring decisions to detain or release are based on risk of not appearing for court or threat to public safety.

The last four strategies were addressed in the programs and initiatives already mentioned, but the first strategy, Identifying Alternatives for the Mentally Ill, led to the creation of Criminal Justice Behavioral Health Initiative, which, in turn, resulted in opening the Behavioral Health Center at 1800 Chicago Avenue.  The Center is funded by Hennepin County and operated by Hennepin County Human Services.

For more information, check the full document:  https://www.mncourts.gov/mncourtsgov/media/fourth_district/documents/Criminal/HCDCPretrialDetentionReduction.pdf

To see how far the population in the jail had declined, I looked for a headcount of people, preferably a compiled list going back six months or so.   I couldn’t find one.   Holly Ihrke pointed me to Jeremy Zoss,  Director of Communications, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.  Mr. Zoss offered the following:  Before the pandemic, there were between 600 and 800 people in jail each day  He estimated the average was in the low 700s.

Since the detention reduction measures went into effect, most days the population is closer to 400, with a range of 350 to 550 — substantially below the high mark, but also
lower than the low “typical” number, 600 people.  During the demonstrations this summer, the population spiked to 550, but that again, is lower than the 600 to 800 range.   Per Mr Zoss, “Most days are closer to 400.”

On 4/22, The Spokesman Recorder, in an article about this topic, reported, “815 on March 16 to 456 on April 14”   which echoes Mr. Zoss’s estimates.  It’s a good read, I think.  See https://spokesman-recorder.com/2020/04/22/hennepin-county-jail-population-cut-by-44-in-light-of-covid-19/

On 9-14, the population was 540, up again.  By 9/25, it was 471.  This list is updated M-W-F, only.  You can follow the daily numbers at the jail information which includes COVID-19 statistics here:   https://www.hennepinsheriff.org/jail-warrants/jail-information/COVID-19
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CHANGES IN PROBATION PRACTICES

The Hennepin County Dept. of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation includes the Neighborhood Probation Unit, which includes Holly Ihrke, the Probation Officer who is a member of the professional team that offers insight to 2-PAC meetings every month.

I asked her to explain what exactly probation officers do, what the goals of the Probation Unit are and if this has changed in the pandemic.  

SERVICE TO COMMUNITY IS THE FIRST GOAL

Serving the Community is a leading goal for H.C. Probation Officers; they are proud of their service. The neighborhood probation supervision  model started in 1997 for both juvenile and adult probation.  The model  is focused on serving  the needs of clients in the context of the clients’ community which has needs and expectations.  The community-based model works to build sustainable relationships or bridges, among clients, but also  between clients, community, and law enforcement agencies.  POs respond to the needs of the community and focus on collaboration.  The P.O. works hard to connect the client to needed services that are available in the community, forging a connection to that place.

SUPERVISION MODEL STARTS WITH THE COURT’S DECISIONS

The strategy is that the Probation Officer meets with clients on a regular basis and may have additional meetings as situations arise.
When a person is brought into court, the court sets conditions for the clients to abide by, and sets goals for the client to work toward, based on areas of risk and needs.  The clients will have as much help to meet these needs as the Probation Officer can offer. The P.O.s monitor their client’s progress toward goals to make sure they are getting results that  fit the client and are producing agreed upon changes.  P.O.s use evidence-based practices to assist clients who are working on conditions.  Regular communication is a practice that strengthens the clients in the program. 

As neighborhood agents, P.O.s  use home visits as an important part of the procedure so they are assured that the client is in a place that can support progress. “Meeting them where they’re at” is the expectation.  

SUPERVISION IN 2020 – THERE ARE SOME CHANGES

Holly’s case numbers are about the same as before 2020.  

Client-meeting needs still use the model defined in 1997.   Probation Officers have been out in the field (Second Precinct) since early April, meeting clients on their own turf, but most important, to better learn the needs of each client.   P.O.s still make a lot of phone calls, but Ms Ihrke feels that meeting her clients in their neighborhoods is far better than asking them to come into the office.  For some clients, travel to an office is difficult.  Additionally, when they are in their neighborhood, they’re in a place they know. 

Again, using the 1997 model, the higher the need, the more frequent the meetings.

Court appearances have not changed much for clients.   A warrant is issued; the client is arrested; the case has a hearing; the Court imposes a sanction.    Ms Ihrke has found that if a client has committed a violation, it’s necessary to articulate the consequence of that violation which the client may not have remembered.  If a client is acting in a manner that is threatening, the court will address it.

Clients used to receive conditional release which began with a jail term and led to a gradual, strictly supervised return of the offender to the community.   Now clients tend to get furloughed to a treatment program with supervision.   Another change is the use of Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM) which is helping keep clients accountable when they are out in the community.
[EQ: In late 2019 Governor Walz and Missouri Governor Mike Parson wrote a bipartisan article about the need for uniformity and improved practices in probation guidelines.  The Time Magazine article was cited in a Star Tribune story: https://www.startribune.com/minnesota-s-probation-system-should-be-reformed/566521872/ ]

QUESTION:   What services work to reduce recidivism?Answer:  Employment is known to reduce recidivism.   Chemical dependency programs are very important.
QUESTION: What challenges do your clients face:  can neighborhoods do something? 
A Northeast has substance abuse programs.  Let people know about them. Q  Do your clients live in tents or do they have roofs?

A.  The N.P.O. has a staff member who offers housing, but the clients must agree to move to the other place.  Ultimately, they are in charge of their own progress.A-2:  Rashid offered the info that The Parkboard requires a permit to camp  and he doesn’t know if the MPRB looks at probation orders for camping permits
Q How do you get the input from the community?A. Holly attends neighborhood association meetings across the Eastside.   She visits store owners and other business people in the 2nd Pct also.  She attends 2-PAC  Her contact info is Holly.Ihrke@hennepin.us   ph 612.386.5278 
A-2 Nick interjected that in a low numbers NE neighborhood, neighbors were reporting a problem house.   The place was run down but some behaviors looked like drug use.   When it was investigated, officers found that some of the residents were on probation, so they were not in an environment that met the terms of their probation.    The bottom line was that reporting the house was a good thing for residents and neighbors of this house.    It got shut down and the probationers are now in housing that better supports their growth. 
Q Probation used to have a volunteer arm.    It delivered food and supplies, and worked as outreach.  What happened to it?A: It was in place until George Floyd died. Hopefully that will be restarted.Q: Are many of your clients, parents?   What happens to the children?
A: Plenty of clients are parents.   Many use People Serving People in Downtown Mpls. 

UTube recording is here:

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