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June 30, 2017
Reimagining justice by putting people first
By: James Slessor

Across the world criminal justice systems are complex bringing together enforcement, prosecution, defence, courts, corrections and rehabilitation all with the mission of upholding the law in a fair, rational and transparent way. But below this complexity it is clear that justice systems are, first and foremost, about people: both those who they directly impact and wider society beyond. And regardless of the country or the nature of the justice system those people have a diverse range of needs, circumstances and expectations.

For example: the low-risk accused who, while waiting for trial, can be released to continue working and support their families until their case is resolved. The victims of crime and their community who need to feel safe and that the guilty will be brought to justice fairly and in a timely manner. The witnesses who give up their time to support the administering of justice, who want to be supported and for the process to be as easy and as least disruptive as possible. The lawyers who need timely and accurate information to ensure cases are progressed quickly and successfully. Taxpayers who want an efficient, effective, transparent and fair system that helps resolve cases quickly and lowers recidivism.

Designing and operating a justice system that meets all those needs (and more), across all of those stakeholders is complex and challenging. Even more so as citizen’s expectations increase of personalised and rapid services within the digital age and budget coming under further pressure and scrutiny. One place which was no stranger to these challenges was Fulton County, Georgia in the United States. Taking everything into account, Fulton County’s jails, courts and other services cost in the region of $240M annually—nearly half of the county’s annual general fund expenditure.

Fulton County leadership wanted to ensure they delivered the best outcomes to their citizens. They continued to question: Are our communities as safe as they can be? Are we doing our best to understand the underlying causes of crime? Is our justice system achieving the right outcomes? How can we better service all citizens and ensure increased value for money in doing so?

To address the questions, Accenture worked with Fulton County to create a new vision for the justice system—and a plan for achieving it. To get things started, we worked with and facilitated a Justice Reinvestment Steering Committee comprised of key elected and appointed officials. The aim was to identify the key outcomes that a successful justice system needs to deliver. That covered a lot of people in a lot of different circumstances, from making sure cases are processed in good time, to operating services as cost-effectively as possible and from treating people with mental health issues more effectively to lowering recidivism.

Together we identified the key outcomes. We then set about the steps needed to achieve them. To do that, we examined every step where individuals come into contact with the justice system: from prior to arrest; the detention decision process after arrest; inside the jail; the court adjudication process and an individual’s rehabilitation and re-entry into the community.

By assessing the justice system with people at the center and viewing it through the eyes of those within it, from the analysis we conducted we were able to create an Action Plan that detailed social and financial impacts of each reform, as well as the immediate next steps for implementation. With the Action Plan approved, a number of follow up initiatives are already underway.

By taking a “people first” approach, Fulton County is now increasingly able to achieve the outcomes that truly matter: dealing swiftly and fairly with criminals, improving how offenders re-integrate into society, servicing everyone with more timely and accurate information, and handling victims and witnesses with compassion and care.

Fulton County’s well on the way to achieving its goal of a more effective and efficient integrated justice system. Above all, their success is about people. Putting them front and centre has been the most important factor in delivering successful change.

Read more about the Fulton Country story.

See this post on LinkedIn: Reimagining Justice by putting people first

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