Criminal justice systems are complex and are frequently siloed. Law enforcement officers are very different from a defense attorney, parole and probation officer, or a county commissioner. The problem is that these parties don’t often naturally communicate well with each other, which hinders their ability to collaborate and work together to solve problems.
In an attempt to address this siloing, in 1995, Oregon’s Senate Bill 1145 required every county to convene a Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC)–note: many other states call these Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils (CJCCs). While LPSCCs across the state engage in a variety of activities to improve system-wide communication and collaboration, they were primarily charged with the coordination of local criminal justice policy and planning and tasked with making recommendations to the county board of commissioners regarding the use of state and county resources to supervise local offenders. In a time of reduced public safety budgets, LPSCCs can be, according to the Justice Management Institute, “vitally important resources for local governments as they seek to fulfill their mandates to assure public safety and fair treatment of all.” Oregon’s LPSCCs are comprised of the who’s who of criminal justice, including:
- Police Chiefs
- District Attorney
- State Court Judges
- Public Defender
- Director of Community Corrections (Parole and Probation)
- County Commissioners
- Juvenile Department Director
- Health Director
- City Councilor or Mayor
- Oregon State Police representative
- Oregon Youth Authority representative.
By having an expansive membership, LPSCCs have the ability to be venues of genuine interagency and cross-jurisdictional collaboration. Anyone who has spent any of amount of time in local government knows how hard siloed walls can be to break down and LPSCCs’ regular meetings go a long way to creating bridges amongst the silos. The sharing of reports and information, while beneficial, is only the beginning of what LPSCCs can and should be used as. Ideally, entities like LSPCCs become venues where systemic changes are considered and discussed. In Yamhill County, Oregon, one of the counties where I work, the LPSCC decided four years ago to implement evidence-based programs that would send fewer people to prison while increasing public safety. During that time Yamhill County has deferred over 1,500 prison months, an almost 30% reduction from the average four years ago. It would simply not have been possible for a county to achieve this kind of success without interagency collaboration.
Unlike statewide or nationwide bodies, these councils have the ability to focus their attention on local issues, whether that is an opioid crisis, homelessness, or an effort to send fewer people to prison. The built-in flexibility makes these councils powerful tools for any part of the country. Look to see if your county or region has a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and consider learning more.
You can learn more from the National Network of Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils