July 11, 2016 01:43 PM

Lafayette is one of 67 communities partnering with the White House on its Data-Driven Justice Initiative. This initiative focuses on using data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal-justice system and to changing approaches to pre-trial incarceration so that low-risk offenders no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond.

Lafayette Parish is already at the forefront of pre-trial diversion due to the policies and programming implemented by Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office under former Sheriff Michael Neustrom. These programs have proven to lower recidivism rates (number of individuals being re-arrested or re-convicted) more than just incarceration. Further, these programs are less expensive to operate than the $54/day average it costs to house an inmate in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center.

Last year, the Lafayette Parish Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee launched The Mental Health-Criminal Justice Collaborative, now a community action initiative focused on reducing the number of individuals with mental illness entangled within the criminal justice system, and CJCC is moving forward with several projects that will positively impact Lafayette. These include crisis intervention training for law enforcement for better public safety and secure but innovative ways to share data between agencies to provide better supports and services to individuals with mental illness.

Almost a year ago, our community was rocked by the actions of an individual with mental illness and a gun. Lafayette Strong continues to be a watchword in our community. We are asking Lafayette to continue building and supporting our strong and vibrant community. This includes supporting CJCC efforts to increase public safety and justice by addressing the needs of the mentally ill in our community. Lafayette Parish needs more services and supports for individuals with mentally illness that deflect them from the criminal justice system and into appropriate interventions before they commit serious and sometimes violent crimes.

Holly Howat, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Lafayette Parish Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee

Also in Letters to the Editor


Introducing The Current