Engaging the Community in Support of Bail Reform Efforts in Los Angeles County
The Los Angeles County Probation Department is a key partner in the L.A. County Superior Court’s Pretrial Risk Evaluation pilot program. As part of this initiative, the department’s Pretrial Services Bureau had to revamp its operational protocols to provide varying levels of assessment and post-release services, including community-based services. Tasked with developing a community engagement strategy, FUSE Executive Fellow Shadeequa Smith helped increase the presence of pretrial services in the community, develop partnerships with community stakeholders, and improve the community’s understanding of the function and programming of pretrial services. To determine needs and shared values around pretrial bail reform, Shadeequa facilitated engagement among pretrial services staff, probation leadership, community-based organizations, and hundreds of community members. Gathering feedback, she identified a range of issues that needed to be addressed, including the bureau’s lack of community presence, misinformation around pretrial services, and a lack of collaboration between pretrial services and community-based organizations, and she then created a strategy for improvement. Shadeequa is continuing to develop and coordinate community outreach, which includes holding town halls and creating a consortium of advisors, while also conducting research on best practices and racial and ethnic disparities in the pretrial probation system. Her work is helping support criminal-justice reform that decreases pretrial incarceration and facilitates successful community reintegration.