On November 16, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the launch of the Jails and Justice Support Center (JJSC), a strategic collaboration among justice partners meant to bolster the federal government’s response and assistance to the nation’s jails. Marking the event was a meeting hosted by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in collaboration with the Arlington County Adult Detention Center in Virginia. DOJ Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta attended the event alongside sheriffs, representatives of nonprofit justice advocacy groups, and federal partners.
“The JJSC is a vital resource for the nation’s jails,” said Gupta and praised its partners for their “willingness to share innovative practices, reveal what works in local communities, and engage in peer-to-peer learning.”
The JJSC aims to fill in the gaps to provide jails with training and technical assistance that are not currently offered elsewhere. The center will promote data-driven approaches with an eye toward outcomes such as wellness for staff and incarcerated individuals, reduction of oversight through consent decree, reduction of violence and use of force, and elimination of deaths in custody due to substance abuse. The JJSC also promises to be a hub for referring jails to other federal resources and programs for which they may qualify or be better suited.
“The answers lie in the hands of the people we serve,” said NIC Director (A) Holly Busby, highlighting that the JJSC was created on the basis of feedback that NIC and others received from thought leaders and executives from around the country representing the nation’s jails.
Following an agenda that guided attendees through a brief history of and anticipated future for the JJSC, the launch event ended with core topic briefings on screening and assessment, medical and behavioral health, and use of force. These topics had been identified as being among the greatest challenges currently facing jails. A large portion of the day’s discussion also centered around the challenges that many jails face with consent decrees and how the JJSC can be a resource for helping them get out from under scrutiny.
“Our focus is to help jails develop a constitutionally sound foundation for administering a jail,” said Panda Adkins, Director of the JJSC.
“We have large workloads ahead,” said Stephen Amos, chief of the NIC Jails Division, “but it’s not an excuse for not moving forward.”
The JJSC and its partners emphasized the importance of sheriffs and jail staff reaching out to their colleagues and others to let them know about the new center.
Major JJSC partners include NIC, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the American Jail Association (AJA), the National Association of Counties (NACo), Major County Sheriffs of America, the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), and Rulo Strategies. For more information, visit jailsupportcenter.org.