New Initiative to Address Vulnerable Populations in Santa Clara

 Santa Clara County Joins Data-Driven Justice Initiative to Enhance Local Efforts to Address Pretrial Detention Rates of the Mentally Ill and the Chronically Homeless    SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—...

 Santa Clara County Joins Data-Driven Justice Initiative to Enhance Local Efforts to Address Pretrial Detention Rates

of the Mentally Ill and the Chronically Homeless 


SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.— The County of Santa Clara has joined the White House-led Data-Driven Justice Initiative that will focus on how local governments leverage data to develop solutions to better serve high utilizers of health and criminal justice systems, and to reduce the population of pretrial detainees in local jails, especially the mentally ill and homeless. The initiative complements local efforts already underway to better serve some of Santa Clara County’s most vulnerable populations.

“We are honored to be selected as one of 67 jurisdictions across the nation to lead the President’s Data-Driven Justice Initiative in local communities,” said Board President Dave Cortese.  “The initiative will complement the innovative work already happening in Santa Clara County to find solutions to reduce chronic homelessness and high pretrial detention rates for those who cannot afford bond.”

President Obama’s Data-Driven Justice Initiative (DDJ) is a coalition of city, county, and state governments who have committed to using data-driven strategies to divert low-risk defendants with mental illness out of the criminal-justice system and to changing approaches to pretrial detention.

In Santa Clara County, approximately 74% of the 3,500 average daily jail population are individuals held in pretrial detention. And of that pretrial detention group, 620 are for misdemeanor offenses. The daily cost to house an inmate is $204 per day compared to $15 to $25 a day with pretrial supervision outside of jail.

“The inability to pay money should not be the reason why a low-risk defendant spends time in jail,” said Deputy County Executive Garry Herceg, who attended the Data Driven Justice Initiative Community Workshop in Washington D.C. on June 13. “Data-driven strategies will help us divert low-level defendants with mental illness out of the criminal justice system and effectively transform our approach to housing defendants before going to trial.”

The Data-Driven Justice Initiative will be leveraged to build upon current local efforts to serve the same population in the Santa Clara County criminal justice System. The County’s Jail Diversion and Behavioral Health Subcommittee of the Re-Entry Network was formed in March to identify ways that Santa Clara County can divert low-level, nonviolent offenders with mental illness and/or substance use away from jails toward more appropriate community-based treatment.

“Low-risk defendants and chronically homeless experience a revolving door of reoffending and returning to jail,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who co-chairs the Jail Diversion and Behavioral Health Subcommittee of the Re-Entry Network. “This collaboration with the White House and other partners will help us apply best practices to help high utilizers get the treatment they need and break the cycle of re-incarceration.”

The County is already utilizing data analytics as part of its 2015 Pay-for-Success initiative “Project Welcome Home,” which will provide community-based clinical services and permanent supportive housing to 150-200 chronically homeless individuals who are currently frequent users of the County’s emergency rooms, acute mental health facilities and jail.

The County partnered with Palo Alto-based software and services company Palantir, to build an analytics platform that will help Project Welcome Home partners – the County, Abode Services, and UC San Francisco – identify those most costly and needy clients in the County’s health and criminal justice systems.  High utilizers of the County’s safety-net facilities are identified, with their consent, by analyzing data from the local criminal justice system, health and hospital systems (mental health, substance abuse treatment, inpatient and emergency hospitals), Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) and Abode’s ongoing case management and lease tracking system.


As a White House Initiative partner, the County has committed to applying the following data-driven strategies locally:

  • combining data from across criminal justice and health systems to identify the individuals with the highest number of contacts with police, ambulance, emergency departments, and other services, and, leverage existing resources to link them to health, behavioral health, and social services in the community;
  • equipping law enforcement and first responders to enable more rapid deployment of tools, approaches, and other innovations they need to safely and more effectively respond to people in mental health crisis, and divert people with high needs to identified service providers instead of arrest; and
  • working towards using objective, data-driven, validated risk assessment tools to inform the safe release of low-risk defendants from jails in order to reduce the jail population held pretrial.

Santa Clara County Facts:

  • Average daily jail population (2016): 3,500 (3,589 – 6/29/16)
  • Approximate cost of housing an inmate in jail:   $204 per day
  • Approximate cost of pretrial supervision outside of the jail: between $15 and $25 per day.
  • Individuals held in pretrial detention – 74% of jail population (6/29/16)
  • Pre-sentence misdemeanor defendants: 369 (285 men, 84 women)
  • Pre-sentence felony defendants: 2,264 (2,061 men,  203 women)
  • Sentenced misdemeanor defendants: 250 (218 men, 32 women)
  • Sentenced felony defendants: 684 (580 men, 109 women)


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