Report says N.O. criminal justice system disjointed, needs improvement

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 8, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 8 at 7:04 PM

Brendan McCarthy / Eyewitness News
Email: bmccarthy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @bmccarthywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office unveiled a new consultant’s report this afternoon that takes aim at the city’s criminal justice system.

The study found a disjointed system that is not inward-looking or analytical, and in need of better collaboration.

The report, “A 21st Century Criminal Justice System for the city of New Orleans,” was completed by The Public Financial Management Group of Philadelphia.

It notes that about $300 million is spent annually on the city’s criminal justice system. Those funds come from a variety of municipal, state and federal sources.

Andy Kopplin, the city’s chief administrative officer, reached out to the consultants in March, the report says. The goal was to identify the budget of the criminal justice system, look for sources of revenue and determine best practices.

“It will be particularly helpful to our administration and the City Council as we move through the budget process these next few months,” Kopplin said today in a released statement.

Consultants determined that the city of New Orleans' total cost of the system was $181.3 million in 2010, with about 71 percent of that going to the NOPD.

Ryan Berni, spokesman for Landrieu, said this report was half of a two-part study. The second part of the study will focus more on court operations. Kopplin’s office budgeted about $90,000 for the studies, according to Berni.

Among the issues cited in the report:

  • Data regarding the actual operation of the criminal justice system is unreliable and scarce
  • Gaps in technology – namely the widespread use of hand-written summons and notes – make it difficult to do analysis.
  • There is no system-wide assessment done. There is little review and study and scant use of performance measures or benchmarks.

The group made numerous other recommendations, including the need for a “strong Criminal Justice Coordinating Council” of local stakeholders, as well as a scheduling system for court. Also, all criminal justice revenues, including money collected for the individual Judicial Expenditure Funds, should go to the city, the report states.

The study also provides a snapshot of local trends. In the last four years, arrest totals have declined significantly and the use of municipal summonses has increased. The number of 911 calls to police has risen steadily. Overall crime went down in 2009 and 2010, but rose significantly in 2011.

In criminal court, the number of trials has jumped 40 percent in the last two years, and the felony conviction rate rose slightly.

Many of the findings may be old hat for local criminal justice system observers. The report as a whole serves as a map of how an arrestee snakes through the system, from a first contact with cops to the jail and through the courthouse, with every agency and mechanism in between.

 

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