Problematic Behavior Or Activity
Yamhill County participates in the National Institute of Corrections’ Evidence-Based Decision Making (EBDM) initiative, which focuses in part on sentencing reform. In conjunction with the initiative, Yamhill County implemented a process for pre-sentence risk-and-needs assessment and reporting. The process, which focused on probation-bound offenders, helps judges tailor the conditions of each individual’s probation. With the passage of Oregon’s HB 3194 and its goal of decreasing the use of state prison, Yamhill County decided to develop a similar pre-sentence process to focus on certain presumptive prison-bound offenders.
Community Corrections has historically used risk and needs assessments after sentencing, to assist with community supervision efforts and case planning. However, research demonstrates that these instruments are vital to making informed sentencing decisions. So Yamhill County developed a system to identify defendants who are eligible and appropriate for a downward dispositional departure to probation. The judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney draw on current information about risks and needs, strengths, areas of criminogenic risk, and available community programming. This process also identifies programmatic and risk-management conditions of supervision to help ensure community safety.
Under the Yamhill County SMART Sentencing Initiative, presumptively prison-bound cases involving non-person felony offenses (primarily Measure 57 property and drug offenses) are referred at the time of arraignment to the Department of Community Justice (DCJ) for completion of an Early Defendant Analysis (EDA). This analysis is prepared by dedicated DCJ officers within 5 days (for an in-custody defendant) or 10 days (for an out-of-custody defendant). The assessment officer conducts an interview with the defendant and gathers the relevant information needed to complete the Level of Services Case Management Inventory (LSCMI) and the Adult Substance Abuse Survey (ASAS), both of which are included in the EDA. The assessment officer prepares the analysis, which also includes the risk scores, suggested programmatic and risk-management conditions of supervision, and a formal recommendation as to whether the defendant can be safely managed in the community. The EDA is distributed electronically to all involved parties—the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney—for use in plea negotiations and sentencing, as well as by the supervising probation officer in cases involving a departure to probation. The EDA is also shared with the Department of Corrections when a defendant is sentenced to prison, to assist in case planning in the facility.
Based On Research
The program is funded by dedicated state Justice Reinvestment grant funding and covers the cost of 1.0 FTE Parole/Probation Officer and .25 FTE Community Justice Manager.
Since project inception (November 2013) and as of February 2016, 49 defendants who were otherwise presumptively prison-bound have been diverted to community supervision upon review of an EDA report. Of those 49 individuals, only four have violated their conditions of probation to the extent that their original prison sentence was thereafter imposed. None of the four were connected to new criminal activity.
Approximately 50 percent of those diverted enter into a treatment court, such as Women’s Recovery Court or Enhanced Adult Drug Court.
Since project inception and as of February 2016, a total of 1,082 prison months have been avoided.
As of February 2016, the sentencing outcome for 80 percent of cases has been consistent with the recommendation from the EDA.
DCJ tracks more than 77 data elements for each defendant project participant.
Critical Success Factors
Participation in the EBDM initiative set the stage for effective working relationships with key players: judges, the district attorney’s office, members of the Defense Consortium, and others. Monthly policy team meetings with stakeholders and bimonthly project work groups have also allowed for ongoing development and success.
Data collection and analysis have been critical to decision making and policy development throughout the process.
Education and training of partners (on risk-and-needs assessments and effective utilization of the EDA) has also been key.
Having a third-party facilitate meetings has been useful in making policy decisions.
Collaboration among county stakeholders was critical to success.
Reaching out to learn from other counties and states was very helpful.