AWS Public Sector Blog

Bridging the Gap between Health and Justice

The Data-Driven Justice Initiative (DDJ), originally launched by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and now run by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, estimates that 11 million people move through America’s 3,100 local jails, many on low-level, non-violent misdemeanors, costing local governments approximately $22 billion a year. Of these non-violent offenders, 64% suffer a mental illness, 68% have a substance abuse disorder, and 44% suffer chronic health issues.

With data acquired from the Data-Driven Justice Initiative, first responders are equipped with the knowledge to most effectively resolve these non-violent situations. Once a situation is contained, officials can recommend services without arrest and treat incarceration as a last resort. For example, over the past five years, Miami Dade, Florida, has used data to create mental health de-escalation training for its police officers, resulting in more than 10,000 people being diverted from incarceration to proper medical treatment and a savings of nearly $12 million per year.

DJ Patil at re:Invent

During a keynote address at AWS re:Invent 2016, DJ Patil, former Chief Data Scientist of the United States Office of Science and Technology, said, “This year alone 11.4 million people will go through our 3,100 jails, but 95% will not go to prison. They will stay there an average of 23 days— we are cycling them.” Understanding of the data and social determinants that often lead to recidivism allows officials to employ measures to intervene and prevent citizens from returning to jail.

Patil concluded his address with three major themes:

  1. People will always be greater than data. When we look at the edge cases that drive the need for this innovation, we must remember that these are people. Each case has a name, a life that needs saving. Whether it’s connecting cancer research data to find a cure or mental health data to get someone the help they need to live productively in our society, these are people we all know and issues that hit close to home.
  2. Data is a force multiplier in every facet of society. The availability of data is a repeatable solution that we can apply to a public issue. The more data that we can connect, the faster we will come to solutions that will improve and save the lives of citizens.
  3. The time to act is now. Patel said, “The answer isn’t in a database. The sad reality is that it’s in thousands of databases.” For many of the issues facing the healthcare community, the solution lies in connecting data that already exists in fragmented datasets.

Speaking to the technology community, Patel urged, “We have a duty to responsibly unleash the power of data for the benefit of all Americans…a technology is neither radical nor revolutionary unless it benefits every single person.”

2017 Winter Innovation Summit

As part of our continued commitment to the Data Driven Justice Initiative, AWS sponsored the 2017 Winter Innovation Summit in Salt Lake City, UT, last week. We joined over forty organizations, including city and county government officials, universities, associations, foundations, and technology companies, to continue the important work the DDJ began in 2016. This was also an opportunity for communities to share which data-driven initiatives are working in their jurisdictions.

DDJ members Middlesex County, Massachusetts and the City of Long Beach, California were among those who shared their approaches to data driven justice and related health outcomes in their communities.

“At the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, we are on the front lines of the mental health and substance use crises plaguing our communities,” said Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “By harnessing the power of data available across systems and jurisdictions, we can not only break the cycle of incarceration, but improve the lives of those afflicted with these disorders and their families. While I am proud of the programs we offer those placed with us by the courts, you shouldn’t have to go to jail to access treatment.”

According to Mayor Robert Garcia, the City of Long Beach’s effort “will bring together data from across criminal justice and health systems to identify the individuals with the highest number of contacts with police, ambulance, emergency departments, and other services, and link them to health, behavioral health, and social services in the community, with a goal of reducing overreliance on emergency healthcare and encounters with the criminal justice system.”

Tracy Colunga, the City’s Innovation Team Director, adds, “We are incredibly excited to bring the human-centered approach to public safety in Long Beach. We are proud to support the amazing men and women of our law enforcement community and work with community members to deploy multiple strategies that improve outcomes, reduce crime and further enhance community-police relations.”

Securely collect, integrate, and share sensitive information

Technology companies play an important role in helping the Data Driven Justice Initiative. At the event, companies had the opportunity to share their solutions built for the DDJ and powered by AWS.

Loom launched and demonstrated a new secure data sharing platform. Loom’s platform allows governments to securely collect, integrate, and share sensitive information, including health and public safety data. APN partner Appriss also showed how health and criminal justice data streams could be integrated to identify “super utilizers” across health and public safety programs in order to quantify costs and proactively allocate preventative resources.

Learn about Health and Human Services solutions on AWS:

Michael Jackson, AWS Healthcare Strategy Lead (center) reviews Public Health solutions with US mayors: Stephanie Miner (Syracuse, NY), Bryan Barnett (Rochester Hills, MI), Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (Baltimore, MD – former), and Eileen Weir (Independence, MO) at Winter Innovation Summit 2017