Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

Churchill County Court Services

BJA Program(s): Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program
State(s): NV

Jurisdiction(s): Churchill County

Grantee Agency: Nevada Department of Public Safety
Subgrantee Agency: Churchill County Court Services Department

Grant Amount/Year(s): FY 2011/$80,000; FY 2012/$64,543

About the Program:

The goal of this effort is to establish a comprehensive community service work program that gives judges an additional sentencing option and assist with funding for pre-trial services. The overall goal of the Churchill Court Services Department establishment is to minimize jail overcrowding; interview, screen and provide pre-trial written reports to the court on all bookings that remain incarcerated (do not make bail); and to supervise all defendants who are released from custody and ordered into the court services pretrial program.

This project is part of the Churchill County’s master plan of establishing a Court Services Department. There are several phases to the master plan. The phase was funded with FY 2011 JAG monies by providing partial funding for two positions, the Court Services Director and the Court Services Specialist. Total wages and benefits for one year exceeded the $80,000 funded by the JAG award. The county was able to pick up the remainder of the personnel expense for this project period and after seeing the value of the project picked up the entire personnel costs the following year. FY 2012 JAG funding assisted in supporting the next phase by supplying funds for purchasing a case management system which allows for providing pretrial services to the community and supervision to the criminal defendants in a more efficient manner, while collecting valuable data to ensure that the evidence-based practices they are employing, are appropriate and proven to apply in their local environment. Funding was also utilized for the purchase of alcohol monitoring ankle bracelets to expand the capability of strict supervision to help further manage the jail population by avoiding costly incarceration when appropriate.

The Churchill County jail is a 52 bed facility; however, when taking into consideration the classification of prisoners, the special security confinement, medical segregation, the ration of males to females and other housing needs, the jail is overcrowded with as few as 30 to 35 inmates. Peaks of inmate population has been higher than 60 at times. Overcrowding and funding for inmates was the impetus towards creating the court services department.

The unit developed a comprehensive community service work program which provides the opportunity for defendants to work off their debt to society, rather than automatically incarcerating them at tax payers’ expense. The program provides valuable work hours to the local government and non-profit agencies as well as support to the overall mission to relieve the jail population cases where incarceration is not necessary, allowing defendants to maintain employment and support their families.

The pretrial field is an innovative program which improves the process of the criminal justice system in many ways. The process of applying evidence-based practices to pretrial services can emphasize outcomes, providing an indication of how to better reduce recidivism, risks to community and failures to appear for court. Various factors can be assessed relating to a defendant, i.e., substance abuse, prior criminal history ties to a community, employment status, etc. and make a reliable risk assessment on whether to release the defendant from jail with appropriate conditions and supervision (which studies have indicated costs about $6.50 /day) or leave the defendant in jail (which currently costs tax payers in Churchill County about $80/day).

Evidence-Based Practices: Several evidence-based programs were reviewed and components utilized for the Churchill County Courts Services Department including programs found on the crime solutions website such as the Reduced Probation Caseload, which utilizes the risk-needs-response or RNR framework. This closely mimics the pre-trial approach to supervision which the County is using. The second program, Electronic Monitoring Program from Florida, also on the website, has components also utilized by the County.

A local treatment provider, New Frontier Treatment Center, provided the court with their information and model which is recognized in the Substance Abuse and mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of evidence-based programs and practices.

Program Successes/Effect on the Community:

As a result of implementing this program utilizing evidence-based practices, Churchill County Court Services was awarded a national award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) "in recognition of an effective and innovative program which contributes to and enhances county government in the United States" and is listed as one of the NACo’s Model Programs on its national website.

The first objective was to maintain an average annual jail population of 42 or less. The average population for the year was 42. The second objective was to interview 100% of inmates, with written reports to the courts. Ninety-five percent of this objective was achieved. Offenders in the parole and probation section and out-of-jurisdiction warrants are not interviewed at this time due to time restraints of the small staff. The third objective to monitor/supervise 100 percentof the inmates released to the program was accomplished. This is done by in-person or phone check-ins, drug and alcohol tests, and providing compliance and non-compliance reports to the courts.

Courts and prosecutors rely on the information and supervision provided, defense attorneys view the unit as a valuable resource for their clients, and the defendants themselves have provided feedback via surveys that indicate how useful and helpful the program has been.

Learn More:
To learn more about the program, please contact:
Brenda Ingram
Director of Court Services
Email: brendaingram@churchillcounty.org
Phone: 775-423-4222

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