SACRAMENTO—The Judicial Council at its January 17 meeting received a final report on a three-year grant for 39 collaborative court and pretrial programs that tracked retention, recidivism, and failure to appear rates for participating defendants. Results from the evaluation of these programs support the case for ongoing and sustained funding to replicate and expand their use across the state.

“This information will be really be helpful to us, as there is a lot of pushback on efforts we’re making to try to reform the criminal justice system,” added Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and member of the Judicial Council. “It’s important the public know this approach has great promise and has seen great results. Although there is still more work to be done, this work will help move us forward.”

Collaborative Courts
Collaborative justice courts—such as drug courts, veterans courts, and mental health courts—combine judicial supervision, rehabilitation services, and rigorous monitoring to reduce recidivism and improve offender outcomes. The collaborative courts funded during the three-year grant program reported:

  • About 80% of participants graduated from the program or continued to receive services and comply with program requirements one year after entry.
     
  • Only 7% of participants received new charges as a result of an arrest while in the program, and only half of those arrests resulted in a conviction.
     
  • Less than 2% of new participants were discharged from collaborative court programs because of a new misdemeanor or felony charge.
     

Pretrial Programs
Eleven pretrial programs assessed nearly 50,000 detainees’ risk of committing a new crime or failing to appear (FTA) during the pretrial period. The final grant report found:

  • Pretrial programs can safely release more low- and moderate-risk defendants pretrial without increasing the level of risk to public safety or failures to appear in court.
     
  • Risk assessment tools worked—those assessed as low risk had the lowest rate of pretrial failure, and those assessed as high risk had the highest rate of pretrial failure.
     
  • Further study is needed on effective supervision and monitoring practices such as court date reminders, which might further maximize release without increasing FTA rates.
     

The fiscal year 2019–20 state budget funded 16 pretrial pilot programs in trial courts statewide to help the branch continue work on how to increase safe and efficient pretrial release. Watch

Other items on the council meeting agenda included:

New Rule on Workplace Conduct: The council approved a new rule of court to improve how judicial branch entities prevent and address harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and inappropriate workplace conduct. The new rule would create standardized requirements for court policies on the prevention, reporting, and resolution of these types of complaints. Council staff will be providing guidance to courts on how to implement the new rule. Watch

Financial Plan for Building New Courthouses on Hold: Originally on today’s agenda, the council deferred until its next meeting in March consideration of an updated five-year infrastructure plan for the judicial branch’s courthouse construction program. As a result, the council also deferred consideration of a fiscal year 2020-21 funding request for the courthouse construction projects on the council's statewide priority list. Council leaders chose to give the branch more time to consider the infrastructure plan and funding request in light of the governor’s recently proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-21, which includes $2 billion for court facilities.

Education for Judges and Court Staff: The council approved its next two-year education plan for developing and delivering education for judicial officers, court management, and staff. Representing the work of more than 100 judicial officers and court staff, the education plan boasts hundreds of training tools, including live programs, videos, webinars, online courses, podcasts, and publications. Watch

Court of Appeal Online Tools: The council heard from the Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, about the court's Transcript Assembly Program and its new Self-Help and Learning Center Website. The new website includes a timeline and steps of a typical appeal, educational videos, forms, and a chatbot to answer questions. The project is one of 50 programs supported by the Court Innovations Grant Program to promote court innovations and efficiencies. Watch

An archived webcast of the entire meeting broken out by topic will be available on the council’s meeting information webpage.