“We don’t have money to build a new jail — and we can’t build our way out of this problem anyway. The question becomes: What can we do to significantly reduce the inmate populations while maintaining the safety of our city and the citizens?”
- Mayor Greg Fischer, City of Louisville
Louisville has a number of active tech groups with Code Louisville, Open Coffee Lou and Enterprise Lou leading the pack. While the city does not have an active Code for America Brigade, there’s an opportunity to start one as interest in hackathon events and civic hacking is high. If you’d like to help start one, check out our list of info for Brigade Captains.
(L-R) Fellows Shaunak Kashyap, Laura Meixell and Marcin Wichary visit the jail guided by two Corrections officials.
Louisville Spotlight at the Code for America Summit
In 2013, the City of Louisville and Jefferson County Criminal Justice Commission enlisted Code for America to work on criminal justice in the city. At the time, the system was stretched by crowding, budget cuts, and a complicated (often improvised) information technology infrastructure that ties together agencies at both the State and local levels. Led by CIO Beth Niblock and Criminal Justice Commission Director Kim Allen fellows Shaunak Kashyap, Marcin Wichary and Laura Meixell are working to build technological solutions that use data to help the many moving parts of the system better understand how their work drives outcomes for their community.
During residency, the fellows had an extraordinary opportunity to observe the criminal justice system up close. They rode along in police cars, sat in criminal court, spent late nights at the metro jail to assess current processes, and interviewed public service professionals at all levels. The group was so successful at connecting with the greater community that when they helped plan Louisville’s National Day of Civic Hacking event, more than 60 community members attended.
As the Fellows learned during their Residency, American criminal justice systems are complicated by design and operate with a decentralized management structure. Elected Judges are state employees while corrections and police departments are funded and managed by local governments. The decisions that dictate who stays in jail and for how long are made by judges and prosecutors who sentence defendants only with reference to that individual’s circumstances. When the jail becomes overcrowded, the Department of Corrections and thereby the Louisville Metro Government faces increased management costs, unsafe conditions, and risks potential legal action or sanctions from the state.
In Louisville, the Criminal Justice Commission brings together representatives of the partner agencies to discuss issues that affect them all – including overcrowding. Currently, the Criminal Justice Commission has only ad-hoc access to basic data about population, length of stay, bonding and other key statistics that drive outcomes for Metro Corrections. The Jail Population Management Dashboard prepared by the Fellows gives these groups ongoing access to standardized information so they can discuss trends and assess the effects of policy changes. Increased awareness of data from an authoritative source will help the members of the Jail Policy Committee think about their issues analytically and bring greater accountability to interagency dynamics.
The Jail Population Management Dashboard will provide many visualizations for stakeholders, while also exposing REST APIs with the raw data. In the future, these APIs may be used to access this data in third party applications and will be included in Louisville’s open data portal.
Laura and John Arnold Foundation
Louisville Bar Foundation
Governing Mag interviewed the 2013 Louisville Code for America fellows just as they were brainstorming their project idea and determining a fit for their city partner.
Louisville Metro TV did a series of profiles on Code for America fellows – Shaunak Kashyap, Marcin Wichary and Laura Meixell