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Mayor Greg Fischer Newsroom

Project Will Improve Louisville's Criminal Justice System

Wednesday February 6, 2013

Two national organizations -- the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and Code for America -- are joining forces to help Louisville Metro use data and technology to improve pretrial criminal justice.

The two groups are providing the city with a highly-specialized team of web developers, technologists and urban planners, who will work with criminal justice stakeholders to understand pretrial issues in Louisville, and will then develop technologies and tools to help address them.

The project, which received additional financial support from the Louisville Bar Foundation and Metro Government, will focus on the pretrial — the stage between an arrest and the adjudication of the case — because of its potential to have significant impact throughout the criminal justice system.

For instance, the Metro Corrections jail, which has the capacity to house about 1,800 inmates, has a population of about 2,000 most days, and the majority of inmates are being held while awaiting trial.

“That creates many problems — and much stress — for inmates and for correctional officers,” Mayor Greg Fischer said in announcing the Code for America/Arnold partnership. “We don’t have money to build a new jail — and we can’t build our way out of this problem anyway. The question becomes: What can we do to significantly reduce the inmate populations while maintaining the safety of our city and the citizens?”

Code for America, based in San Francisco, has been called “Peace Corps for Geeks” because it recruits top talent from the tech industry to work for one year with cities to build software solutions for civic problems. Louisville is one of 10 cities nationwide chosen as a Code for America fellowship city this year.

The fellows, who arrived this week and will spend the month in Louisville, are:

Laura Meixell served as a Presidential Management Fellow at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she worked on agency performance management and developed a place-based data-driven review process. Prior to that, she worked on a community data and mapping system in Pittsburgh.

Marcin Wichary, a user interface designer and developer. Over the past seven years, he’s worked at Google on Chrome and search teams, and has coded and attended to the user experience of interactive homepage doodles.

Shaunak Kashyap, a generalist backend software developer with 10 years of experience. Most recently, he helped build the ground software that will control earth-imaging satellites. Lately, he has developed a passion for building RESTful web services.

“I’m privileged to be working with a city that is actively seeking new solutions to the challenges it's facing - particularly in the criminal justice system,” Kashyap said. “I’m eager to get to know the Louisville community and look forward to figuring out how I can use my skills to benefit the city and community.”

The three will spend the month learning about the operation of the local criminal justice system through meetings with key stakeholders and activities such as a jail tour, police ride-along, and court observation.

From March through September, the fellows return to San Francisco where they will design and test specific tools and applications that ultimately will be implemented in Louisville in the fall of 2013.

Anne Milgram, Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Foundation based in Houston, said her organization strives to produce transformational change in areas including criminal justice, education, and public accountability.

In 2012, the foundation launched an initiative called ‘Moneyball’ that uses criminal justice data, technology, and analytics to reduce crime, increase public safety, and make sure the criminal justice system is working as fairly and efficiently as possible. The foundation also approached Code for America to propose having fellows in cities focus on criminal justice projects.

“We believe that the Code for America fellows have the unique combination of skills and experience to help cities enhance public safety and improve the criminal justice system,” Milgram said. “We are delighted to be partnering with Louisville and Code for America on this important work.”