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Independent study slams N.O. judicial system

Posted: Oct 15, 2012

 A sobering independent study commissioned by local officials that was released this month pans the New Orleans justice system as a disparate array of political fiefdoms that are charged with working together but often fail to do so in a manner that produces trackable results; is hobbled by outdated technology; and that has cost city taxpayers close to $300 million in a recent probe of the city’s crime-fighting budget.

The Philadelphia-based PFM Group produced the 69-page report that puts the functions of the many city agencies that constitute the local criminal justice system under a microscope, an apparatus the report’s authors call “highly fragmented” and a “criminal justice nonsystem” in reference to the agencies’ inability to coordinate functions.

The report calls for better use of the city’s scarce financial resources in fighting crime, improved use of criminal data, better coordination among city agencies and says City Hall “must lead” the other areas of the local criminal justice system in order to streamline their operations and achieve the other recommendations.

Funding for crime prevention measures also came under scrutiny in the study, with the report labeling the city’s method of allowing individual departments, like the sheriff’s office and others, to oversee their own budgets a “rare” feature among municipalities, with most creating a more centralized process for funding the justice system.

“Overall,” the report contends, “we want to have a community where both civil rights and civil order are maintained. Meeting these twin goals – civil rights and civil order – is made more complicated by the fragmented nature of the criminal justice system. … The fragmentation in authority is matched by a fragmented process of funding – including funds from the city, state and federal governments, as well as outside grants and a signification amount of funding derived through fees and fines collected from defendants.” Read more here.

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