Just in case you wanted another affirmation that Greg Fischer is playing a risky game with the Arnold Foundation?
Mark Bolton has a problem. To be more precise, he has 250 problems. Bolton runs Louisville, Ky.’s metro jail system. Its main facility — two aging structures joined by a pedestrian sky bridge — is designed to hold 1,353 inmates. Another facility across town has another 440 beds. But on this particular day in early February, Bolton has 2,043 people behind bars. For weeks, he’s been adding cots to the barracks-style rooms that house most inmates. But the jail is so overcrowded that he’s now considering opening another wing of the facility, even though it’s not up to code.
One of the biggest problems is sharing information. Louisville has a long history of coordinating criminal justice initiatives, including what may be the oldest multiagency criminal justice commission in the country. Sharing information electronically, though, is a different story. The courts’ computer systems are administered by the state; the jail’s by the city; and then there are the systems used by Louisville’s various prosecutors, the public defender’s office and the police department. Although significant progress has been made in linking up the courts and law enforcement, the overall system is still far from optimal. Louisville’s 40 elected judges use their computer system in different ways to different degrees. Unnecessary duplication of forms is rife. Prisoners stay in jail for roughly 20 days on average before going to trial, even though many are there for nonviolent offenses. Some are there for failing to appear in court on bench warrants — warrants they didn’t even know about. Louisville doesn’t have the technology to provide public access to its criminal justice system. As a result, it often communicates with offenders by arresting them.
For Fischer, successful governance involves all three of these functions — the daily work, continuous improvements, and innovation and breakthroughs. He sees the city’s partnership with Code for America (the cost of which has been paid for largely by the Houston-based Arnold Foundation) as a way of improving on all three of these functions.