Promising Models: Smart County Justice Strategies

Below are select examples of innovative and effective approaches counties are employing to reduce justice system pressures and costs. Please find a list of model examples below, and click on each category to read even more county examples.

We plan to update this section to include one example from every county, as well as more case studies for each approach. We would love to hear what your county is doing. Please email to share your successes for future iterations of this site.


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 Select Examples:


Santa Cruz County: Pretrial Risk Assessment, Supervision and Success

To reduce jail pressures well before Realignment, the Santa Cruz county probation and sheriff departments partnered to shift low-risk individuals awaiting trail to probation supervision and electronic monitoring. Four probation officers work in the jail booking area to streamline risk assessments. As a result, 92 percent of participants did not acquire new charges upon release, and 89 percent successfully appeared on their court date. The county calculated that 90 jail beds were freed up per day – a 25-percent drop in their average daily population. By 2011, Santa Cruz has been able to reduce its pretrial detention rate to 56 percent, well below the statewide average. In addition, the county directed $1.5 million (nearly one-third of its 2012 Realignment funds) to social programs proven to reduce recidivism (e.g., housing, mental health, life skills and substance abuse treatment).

Click here to see more examples of successful pretrial strategies.   


Contra Costa County: Split Sentencing and Reduced Recidivism

A new tool under Realignment, split sentencing allows a judge to utilize probation and jail terms together based on each individual's risk levels and needs. A judge could either assign someone to jail for the full term; supervised probation for the length of that term in lieu of jail; or a combination of the two (adding up to the same sentence length). This ensures structured reentry supervision and programming that can reduce recidivism, while also alleviating jail pressures. Contra Costa County leads the state in the use of this tool, splitting nearly 9 out of 10 sentences. This has allowed the county of 1 million residents to avoid jail crowding, while also achieving recidivism rates well below the state average (30% versus 63.7%). 


San Bernardino County: Special Unit for High-Risk Probationers

San Bernardino, an expansive county of about 1.5 million people in California’s Inland Empire region, has slightly above-average crime and incarceration rates. The county’s Chief Probation Officer set up a 15-officer unit to provide intensive programming and supervision to individuals who have violated – or were at risk of violating – their probation terms. Officers were trained to facilitate a behavioral change curriculum for their probationers and, depending on the risks and needs of the individual, assigned anger management, life skills, substance abuse or vocational education programming. The probation department compared data on participants’ outcomes to that of a control group and found that successful completion of this program has a measurable impact on recidivism. For additional examples of San Bernardino’s innovative approaches, watch this video by the California State Association of Counties

Click here to see more examples of successful community corrections strategies.   


San Diego County: Expanding Access, Providers and Reimbursements

After the implementation of AB 109, San Diego county officials quickly realized that their post-Realignment responsibilities included long-term inmate medical services that significantly exceeded pre-Realignment costs. The county, with years of experience in implementing coordinated reentry services through SB 618, proactively convened a joint effort by the County Public Safety Group and the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) to leverage ACA for its reentry efforts. HHSA is also identifying how the county’s Behavioral Health Services provider network can expand its provider pool under ACA. Additionally, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Medical Services Division is working to determine how the Department may obtain financial reimbursement for inmate in-patient medical services provided at local hospitals. 

Click here to see more examples of successful strategies leveraging the Affordable Care Act.   


Ventura County: STEPS Program

Ventura County has used AB 109 dollars on job readiness, namely its STEPS program (Specialized Training & Employment Project for Success). An employment specialist focuses specifically on realigned individuals to develop an employment plan and supports, coupled with a placement outreach strategy. The program also links participants with substance abuse and mental health treatment. To learn more, watch this video by the California State Association of Counties

Click here to see more examples of successful reentry strategies.   


 San Mateo County: Service Connect

Service Connect provides direct and personal assistance to people navigating a return to their community after incarceration, providing cohesive access to services provided across San Mateo county agencies. The health system, the Human Services agency and the probation department worked collaboratively to develop a supervision plan for realigned individuals. Support begins prior to someone’s release from custody to ensure that they have the foundation needed to function effectively back in the community, based on their specifically assigned risk levels. To learn more, watch this video from the California State Association of Counties

Click here to see more examples of successful strategies based on partnership and collaboration.   


 Santa Barbara County: Tracking Realignment Tactics

Santa Barbara County received more realigned individuals when AB 109 went into effect than they had originally expected. In response, the county adopted numerous approaches to manage the population and reduce recidivism. To track results, the Sheriffs’ Department instituted a data collection system. The results: 23% of realigned inmates were placed on electronic monitoring, and only 8% failed to comply with the program (far below the average). The overall recidivism rate for Santa Barbara County's realigned population was 18%, compared to the state parole rate of 63.7%.