Blog by Deb De Santis, President and CEO of CSH

Tom knew that he couldn’t go back to being in jail or homeless. He’d struggled with homelessness and drugs and committed minor crimes to support his addiction. Tom’s last conviction led him to take a serious look at his life. He asked his probation officer for help and found a home through a local program backed by CSH. Tom moved into his new supportive housing apartment and in a short period of time made great strides. He now facilitates county drug court orientations and is employed as the caretaker of his apartment building. Tom is only one of thousands behind the data that demonstrate stable housing can make the difference between success and a cycle of despair for those we can divert from incarceration and those leaving it.

Throughout history, data has galvanized actions that have led to meaningful change. A new initiative from the White House, Data-Driven Justice, will capitalize on that power in order to advance approaches proven to reduce unnecessary incarcerations and avoidable recidivism while improving public safety.

Data-Driven Justice is being launched with a bipartisan coalition of sixty-seven city, county, and state governments committed to using data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal-justice system so they no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond. The initiative will focus on efforts that measurably reduce jail populations, help stabilize individuals and families, better serve communities, and often save money in the process.

CSH is proud to be part of Data-Driven Justice. Responding to a White House Call to Action, CSH will assist communities that commit to this effort in designing and implementing housing and support services interventions to divert people from entering jail and pave the way for the successful reintegration of those leaving incarceration. CSH will provide training on key challenges and solutions, offer our expertise in data analysis and reentry, and provide programmatic advice to help communities improve outcomes for those looking for a fresh start.

Through our Frequent User Systems Engagement (FUSE), CSH has years of experience designing, implementing, and evaluating the most effective evidence-based models that enhance chances for successful diversion, reentry and reintegration.

FUSE supportive housing is for individuals with chronic medical or behavioral health challenges who cycle between jails, shelters, and other crisis systems of care. The idea behind FUSE is simple: Give the person diverted from jail or exiting a criminal justice facility a real “second chance” to move forward and become self-sufficient by bolstering their stability and access to the housing, medical, mental health, job training and substance use help they need. Because if we don’t, we’re likely dooming them to a second sentence of a life in poverty, increasing their risks of homelessness, incarceration or recidivism and jeopardizing the public safety of everyone.

FUSE changes this trajectory and offers a better path and outcomes. And since FUSE is an early intervention that follows through on services, data is showing us that participants demonstrate fewer jail days and shelter stays, and there are public cost savings.

FUSE is making its mark across the country. The Connecticut Collaborative on Re-Entry Program (CCR), for example, is a FUSE supportive housing initiative that uses data-driven targeting to identify and serve a set of individuals in Connecticut that repeatedly cycle in and out of the homeless services and correction systems. A few years ago, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services (CSS) leadership was researching effective jail diversion models that would reduce recidivism and save public dollars, and discovered CSH’s FUSE. The county has received national recognition for its MeckFUSE effort.

As we have seen first-hand through FUSE, it has become increasingly important to have accurate, reliable data to help guide us in developing the strongest solutions for ensuring men and women diverting from and also exiting the criminal justice system have access to the services that will help them succeed in their communities.

At its core, data matters because it not only measures progress, it provides direction. Accurate reporting allows us to see where successful policy or programmatic interventions, such as FUSE, are taking root so that we can replicate those successes. In addition, it quantifies the depth and magnitude of persistent gaps to progress and the work that remains to be done.

The drive to follow the data has been years in the making, and building on that progress, the message is clear: We must shift toward data and metrics to find out what works and then encourage replication of programs that are clearly making a difference in our communities.

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