By Chris Biehn, Deputy Director • Office of Court Services, Justice Services Division
On April 8, 2021, Governor Holcomb signed House Enrolled Act 1068, which became effective on July 1, 2021. Under this act, counties must establish the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council (Local JRAC) in every county.
The Membership & Set-Up
Local JRACs are multidisciplinary groups tasked with reviewing local criminal justice system policies and implementing evidence-based practices in several key areas including probation services, problem-solving courts, behavioral health services, community corrections, and jail overcrowding. The goal of a Local JRAC is for local criminal justice stakeholders to collaborate and find solutions to improve public safety, system efficiency, and outcomes. Membership includes a public defender, the elected prosecuting attorney, the director of the local community mental health center, the county sheriff, the county community corrections program director and chief probation officer, the president of the county executives, the president of the county fiscal body, and a county circuit or superior judge exercising criminal jurisdiction. Counties may add other system stakeholders as Local JRAC members based on local resources and needs.
Local JRACs were, in part, established to create alignment between the State Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council and state and local justice reform initiatives.
Opportunity for Local JRACs
To support local justice reform efforts and promote the state-local JRAC connection, the State JRAC and the Indiana Office of Court Services partnered with the Center for Effective Public Policy (CEPP) to provide technical assistance using the National Institute of Corrections’ Evidence-Based Decision-Making Framework. On June 1, 2023, IOCS opened an application process for counties to request assistance from CEPP experts in forming and developing their local JRACs. Eleven counties (Daviess, Dearborn, Henry, Jasper, Jennings, Lake, Owen, Porter, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, and Wayne) requested technical assistance tailored to their local needs. State JRAC approved all 11 applications for assistance.
Why Technical Assistance for Local JRACs?
Richard Stroker, Director of CEPP, characterized the Technical Assistance through CEPP by saying, “Technical assistance can be utilized to facilitate collaborative discussions and information sharing among people who may have different responsibilities or perspectives within a system. People often operate within a specific organizational framework and have designated responsibilities. Effective TA can help team members appropriately share or pool their knowledge, data, and information, which can lead to a better understanding of the broader system but can also help generate a common appreciation of key issues or potential problems.”
Recounting Grant County’s experience with TA utilizing the Evidence-Based Decision-Making Framework, Grant Circuit Court Judge Mark Spitzer noted, “The TA was quite intensive – providers appeared at most team meetings and participated in some subcommittee activities. They assisted in drafting and modifying policies and procedures. They helped keep meetings on track and purposeful.” Reflecting on some of the successes Grant County experienced, Judge Spitzer stated, “I think the biggest success with TA was in bringing the different disciplines together, getting us to agree to a meeting and decision framework that encouraged us to get out of our silos, collaborate, identify goals and change targets, and work towards implementing the changes.”
The Local JRACs promote collaboration among diverse roles in the criminal justice system. These efforts can help Indiana to achieve significant transformations in the criminal justice system.
For additional information about Local JRACs or to request technical assistance, visit in.gov/justice/local-jrac.