Spotlight: How Justice Reinvestment Helps Law Enforcement in Arkansas

October 4, 2019

Background

Every law enforcement agency faces a unique combination of public safety challenges, such as addressing rising violent crime rates and serving as first responders to people experiencing a mental health crisis or overdose. To respond effectively, law enforcement agencies need to collect, analyze, and utilize data in actionable ways that support strategies to prevent crime and apprehend people who commit crimes. They also need access to the latest research on evidence-based policing practices and the training to implement them.

One way states have helped law enforcement agencies tackle these challenges is through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. JRI provides technical assistance to states to analyze data and understand key criminal justice challenges, including violent crime, substance use and mental health disorders, and high recidivism rates; develop policies and practices; and plan budgets accordingly to reduce crime and recidivism, improve responses to behavioral health challenges, and increase public safety.

Arkansas: Helping Law Enforcement Respond to People in the Criminal Justice System Who Have Mental Illnesses

Each year, an estimated 1,300 of the 7,600 people in Arkansas’s jails have serious mental health disorders, and most of those jails are not equipped to provide necessary treatment. Arkansas policymakers passed Justice Reinvestment legislation in 2017—Act 423, the Criminal Justice Efficiency and Safety Act—that required and funded Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement officers and crisis stabilization units (CSUs). This training enabled officers to take people experiencing a mental health crisis to receive treatment at facilities designed to meet their needs instead of going to jail, thereby reducing the burden on jails and law enforcement. In the two years since Act 423’s enactment,

  • $6.4 million in state funding has been allocated for regional CSUs and CIT training;
  • Every county and local law enforcement agency with at least 10 full-time officers has at least one officer who has received intensive CIT training, which enables them to refer people to CSUs;
  • All new recruits now receive basic CIT training at the academy, and almost 1,400 veteran officers have received basic CIT training; and
  • 4 CSUs serving 28 counties are fully operational.

For more information on how JRI has helped law enforcement in states across the country, see JRI: Helping Law Enforcement Keep Communities Safe.

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