American Jails, an official publication of the American Jail Association, features recent research conducted by the College’s Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research on Broward County’s Jail Population Management

March 6, 2012

Filed Under: Faculty, Research

The journal, American Jails, an official publication of the American Jail Association, featured recent research conducted by the Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research in the January/February 2012 issue, Volume XXV/ Number 6.

In August 2009, the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, partnered with the College to conduct research that would assist the sheriff’s office in planning and preparing for the future. Project results are detailed in the article “Broward County’s Jail Population Management”, authored by: Karen Mann, Kristina Gulick, Tom Blomberg, William Bales, and Alex Piquero.

The research scope of work included three key elements:

  • A 10-year jail population forecast for the county’s jail population;
  • A cost-benefit analysis for jail alternatives compared to jail; and
  • A validation identifying the level of predictive accuracy of the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) risk assessment tool used to inform the pretrial release decision-making process.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office believed this research to be extremely important because building and operating a jail is a costly pursuit and effective alternatives must be found. The challenges associated with planning and operating a jail system with cost-effective practices and policies, while simultaneously maintaining public safety are daunting. The Broward Sheriff’s Office has reduced their pretrial jail population by implementing a risk assessment screening tool and by developing a continuum of jail alternatives such as day reporting and reentry, probation, drug court, pretrial services, and others. One indication that changes in policies and practices had made an impact occurred when the agency was able to close one of its jails in October, 2009. Deferring the construction of a new jail and closing of another has saved county taxpayers millions of dollars. In Broward County, 25 cents of every local tax dollar is dedicated to the operation and maintenance of jails. The findings from the research discussed in the American Jails article provide evidence that the agency is on the right track with responsible, cost-effective policies and practices. The Broward Sheriff’s Office has been proactive in developing and providing alternatives to incarceration that ensure public safety and cost efficiency. In addition to providing alternatives to jail, the agency has initiated use of an effective screening tool to increase efficiency and accuracy when making placement recommendations. Other jurisdictions throughout the country that are dealing with overcrowded jail conditions could benefit by considering the suitability of implementing some of Broward County’s jail alternatives and practices as a proven means to ensure public safety and cost efficiency.

Authors: Karen Mann, FSU Director, Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research, Kristina Gulick, Director of Community Control, Broward Sheriff’s Office, Dr. Tom Blomberg, FSU Dean and Sheldon L. Messinger Professor of Criminology, Dr. William Bales, FSU associate professor of Criminology and Dr. Alex Piquero, University of Texas at Dallas, Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology.

Also involved in the research project were FSU Criminology graduate assistant, Joseph Nedelec and FSU Criminology graduate, Dr. Ryan Meldrum.