Safety and justice
We believe that safe and just communities have justice systems that are responsive, fair and that work for our nation’s most vulnerable populations, especially those most impacted by crime, violence, and justice system involvement.
Whether Code for America is helping people with past criminal convictions move on with their lives, or creating tools to de-escalate encounters between mentally ill individuals and the police, our work focuses on how we can work together with government and communities to increase safety, reduce costs, and serve people better.
Using text messaging to help people succeed on pretrial supervision and probation.
Technical violations and failures to appear in court for individuals on community supervision are a serious problem in Salt Lake County. Case managers know the best way to keep their clients compliant with the terms of their probation is to check in with them often, remind them of their commitments, and help them with problems that arise. Stakes are high—if they don’t comply with probation, they may go to jail.
To make it easier for individuals and their pretrial or probation case managers to communicate by text, Code for America built ClientComm -- a web application that enables case managers to send automated, but customizable text message reminders, answer questions, and deliver quick coaching via text, all from their desktops.
Since ClientComm went live in March, case managers and their clients have used it to exchange almost 6000 messages and early results indicate has directly reduced technical violations in 29% of cases.
Helping patrol officers de-escalate interactions and divert mentally ill individuals from jail prior to arrest.
The Seattle Police Department is partnering with Code for America to develop software that makes it easier for first responders to access the information they need to divert individuals with mental health and addiction issues away from the criminal justice system and connect them to health, housing, and social services they so desperately need.
In 2015, the Seattle police responded to 9,675 calls to 911 that involved a person in a mental health and/or chemical dependency-related crisis. These incidents too often end in an arrest or a trip to the emergency room - because officers don’t have the information they need - contact info for case managers or health care providers, or case-specific history of triggers and calming techniques - that would prepare them to effectively de-escalate the situation and connect the individual to non-emergency services.
Our team in Seattle has developed an app for patrol officers to use during interactions with individuals in crisis. Focused on tailored plans for individuals who are frequently in contact with the police, this tool will include information such as who to call (family members, caseworker, etc.) and specific action steps to help the person. Seattle Police are already seeing better outcomes from these encounters - fewer arrests and hospital trips - among the test group that is currently using the app.
Helping Californians apply for Clean Slate and criminal record expungement services online.
Clear My Record is a free, online, multi-county, referral application for expungement, dismissal, and reclassification relief in the Bay Area. Prior to the introduction of Clear My Record, the primary way to apply for these services were in person and the process could take up to a year.
Since launching in April, we’ve had great success with increasing the number of applicants in San Francisco county. We have sent over 200 applications to the public defender and expect to send over 1000 by the end of the year. We have also increased efficiencies for clients and public defenders by helping them shift to an electronic process for requesting RAP sheets from the police department, and reducing data entry errors because clerks don’t need to interpret clients’ handwriting. We are working on a number of additional improvements, including establishing a direct connection to their case management system.
Providing jails administrators the information they need to make data-driven decisions.
The Jail Population Management Dashboard gives judges, corrections staff, and police a real-time, in-depth view of the local metro jail system, for real time data driven decision making.
Jail Dashboard was originally designed through the Louisville Fellowship in 2013 and then adopted by Denver in 2014. We’re now working with four counties to pilot and evaluate it further.
Increasing the transparency of police data
Comport is a tool for law enforcement agencies to open their data and be more accountable to their citizens. It was originally built for Indianapolis's Police Department, but is now able to pull data from databases of multiple types and configurations. We’re developing pilot agreements to spread the software to three new cities:
Santa Rosa, CA