Boulder County’s Community Justice Services team updated county commissioners on their progress to improve mental health through the criminal justice system on Wednesday.
In response to a 2016 report on the Boulder County criminal justice system, the Community Justice Services team has been working to implement best practices that reduce recidivism and meet the behavioral health needs of those involved with the criminal justice system.
The department diverts clients throughout the criminal justice process to help them avoid further penetration into the criminal justice system when what the individual really needs is behavioral treatment services, staff explained. This team and the entire Community Services segment of the county offers programming at every step along the sequence.
Trends in justice reform have been focusing more on rehabilitation, shifting away from a purely punitive approach, and Boulder County has been a part of that. This includes offering education, job training, mental health resources and substance abuse treatment to help reintegrate people back into society after serving their sentences.
The Community Justice Services team attempts to apply a more holistic and evidence-based approach to criminal justice that prioritized public safety while also addressing the underlying causes of crime.
The department has a huge variety of behavioral health teams, in part because the many grants that fund their work often can only be used in certain cases. In 2023, the justice services team received $1.6 million from grants along with $762,000 from the county’s general fund.
In 2016, the department only offered two programs. There are now several more, which staff said was necessary to address the growing population of Colorado and the impacts of the pandemic and other crises of recent years.
On a related note, Boulder County will be breaking ground on the alternative sentencing facility on July 7. When built, the facility will offer residential beds for people in the jail system, but also a community-based service center allowing the county to coordinate services in one place.