Clark County Detention Center (CCDC) bookings were up almost 10 percent in 2019, but a new streamlined initial-appearance process has moved inmates through the judicial system faster than ever before, resulting in a 13-percent drop in the average length of stay and a decrease in the jail's average daily population.
CCDC has also seen a drop in the rate of re-arrest. In 2018, 14 percent of the defendants received another charge against them prior to their initial charges being resolved. In 2019, that re-arrest rate dropped to 8.8 percent, a 5.2-percent decline.
The implications are significant. Defendants who spend more time in jail are also more likely to experience a variety of negative consequences, such as losing their jobs, being evicted from their homes, and suffering a strain on their familial relationships. Shortening the amount of time spent in jail improves a defendant's stability and reduces that defendant's risk of recidivism.
The dramatic turnaround is a result of process improvements in Initial Appearance Court (IAC) integrated into CCDC business practices starting in January 2019 at the behest of the Clark County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). Many justice partners were instrumental in this process including the Las Vegas Justice Court's administration and judges, the District Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, Clark County management, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which administers the jail. The CJCC also applied for and received grant funding for an electronic booking/electronic-document distribution software system from the Safety and Justice Challenge of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
"We've brought these disparate parts of the criminal justice system together in an effort to create a more fair and equitable system of justice that gets the accused to where they need to be more efficiently," said Las Vegas Justice Court Chief Judge Suzan Baucum.
CCDC saw a total of 74,867 bookings in 2019, up 9.74 percent from 68,222 the previous year. The increase has come as Southern Nevada's population has boomed and more police officers have patrolled our community. Despite the increase, the jail's average daily population still dropped to 3,706 in 2019 from 3,780 when the planning process began. In addition, the average length of stay at CCDC fell from 20.1 days in 2018 to 17.9 days in 2019.
The purpose of the Initial Appearance Court was to ensure all Las Vegas Justice Court defendants arrested on felony probable-cause arrests, misdemeanor battery/domestic violence, and second-offense Driving Under the Influence appear in court within 12 to 24 hours of arrest. Defendants come before a Las Vegas Justice Court judge seven days a week, including holidays, with sessions taking place twice daily.
Previously, if a person could not afford bail and that person was arrested on a Friday after 12 p.m., that person was required to remain incarcerated at CCDC without being seen by a judge on the weekend. The person would have to wait to see a judge on the following Monday after a regular weekend and until the following Tuesday after a holiday weekend.
"The Initial Appearance Court is a gamer-changer for the criminal justice community here in Clark County," said District Attorney Steve Wolfson. "For decades, arrestees would have to wait two to three days before having their custody status reviewed and appear in front of a judge. Now people are having their custody status reviewed in just a few short hours. It is an incredible move in the right direction."
The expansion of the initial-appearance process also served as a factor in the related improvements. Originally, a judge conducted the probable-cause review in chambers. Now, however, the judge conducts the probable-cause review in open court with representatives present from the District Attorney's Office and the Public Defender's Office. All participants now have the benefit of receiving the Nevada Pre –Trial Risk Assessment (NPRA), and the defendant's financial affidavit, prior to the initial appearance. The Defendant also appears before the judge so that probable cause can be established and release options can be discussed in open court.
"The Public Defender's Office has been supportive of I/A court from its inception, as it has resulted in a system where custody determinations are made in an open forum, with all parties being more informed about the individual that is standing before them, which creates a more equitable system for all parties involved," said Public Defender Darin Imlay.
The District Attorney's Office also conducts case screenings before attending IAC, and has expedited the process for the DA denying a case when warranted. Meanwhile, the Public Defender's Office is now meeting with clients before the start of Initial Appearance Court, and this opens the door for immediate negotiations with the District Attorney's Office. Cases are being processed more expeditiously than ever before, and judges are utilizing a variety of release options, including release on recognizance, bail, and electronic monitoring. At the same time, judges are ensuring that defendants remain incarcerated when those defendants constitute a threat to the community.
"We are committed to safely and efficiently reducing the population at Clark County Detention Center, and the Initial Appearance Court has been instrumental in achieving that objective," said Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, a member of the CJCC. "I want to thank the judges in Las Vegas Justice Court, the District Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, Metro, County management and others who are involved in making our criminal justice system more fair and equitable. We have more work to do, but this is a step in the right direction."