A two-year-old Olmsted County program aimed at offering alternatives to pre-trial incarceration received national recognition this spring when it was awarded one of the National Association of Counties’ 2021 Achievement Awards in the category of Criminal Justice and Public Safety.
The announcement of the award for the Pretrial Release Program was made Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
The program began in January 2019 and gives judges a non-monetary option to better ensure a defendant will return to court. Program participants are assigned a pretrial services agent who, at a minimum, reminds them of upcoming court dates, but can also do required check-ins and help a person connect with the services they need.
While the Olmsted County Pretrial Release Program has only been in use for approximately two years, "we are finding that just a small percentage of people in the program are reoffending … which speaks to the enhancement of public safety in our community,” Travis Gransee, Olmsted County deputy administrator of Health, Housing and Human Services, said in a statement.
The program uses a risk assessment to evaluate conditions of release for an individual and can help to provide resources to an them in an effort to mitigate their risk of accruing additional criminal charges or missing court appearances.
"Without such an assessment and a supportive program, we could only guess at risk and used bail as a means to appease our concerns for ongoing public safety,” Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem said in a statement. “We have also seen significant reduction in ‘failure to appear’ episodes as a result of pretrial services support.”
NACo’s annual Achievement Awards program is designed to recognize county government innovations.
Olmsted County was one of two in Minnesota to receive acknowledgement in that category. Dakota County received an award for its Family Dependency Treatment Court. More than four dozen counties across the nation received awards for their criminal justice and public safety programs.