In Coconino County, individuals are admitted to jail twice as often per year as the national average, with about 3,093 per 100,000 people per year admitted to Coconino County Detention Facility (CCDF).
To address the incarceration rate, Northern Arizona University faculty members are collaborating with Coconino County Attorney’s Office to analyze the most effective methods in creating a comprehensive diversionary program — including housing, behavioral health and job training — to successfully reduce incarcerations at CCDF.
The NARBHA Foundation recently funded the study to be led by principal investigator Ricky Camplain, assistant professor in NAU’s Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) and Department of Health Sciences, and co-investigators Carolyn Camplain, senior program coordinator with CHER, Linnea Evans, assistant professor with CHER and the Department of Health Sciences, Robin Hebert, student in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and Juliette Roddy, The NARBHA Institute James Wurger MD Chair of Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health in NAU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Through the project, titled “The Need for Diversion Programs from the Criminal Justice System in Coconino County: Creating a Health and Human Services Infrastructure Where There Is None,” the NAU researchers will:
- Describe current criminal justice deflection and diversion infrastructure in Coconino County
- Identify successful criminal justice deflection and diversion programs in Arizona, the Southwest region and the US
- Determine deflection and diversion service needs among organizations working with the Coconino County criminal justice system and Coconino County community members
“We are so unique in Coconino County we need a really tailored plan,” Ricky Camplain said.
Along with the Coconino County attorney, NAU researchers will partner with local organizations such as the Coconino County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Northern Arizona Healthcare, housing organizations such as Catholic Charities and Flagstaff Shelter Services, behavioral health providers such as Native Americans for Community Action (NACA) and The Guidance Center, job training programs such as Goodwill, and criminal justice system institutions such as the Flagstaff Police Department, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, probation and parole office, and the court system.
“Proposing solutions to complex issues that involve multiple service sectors — such as criminal justice, health, housing and job training — require the coordination and input from so many agencies,” said Roddy. “The city of Flagstaff and Coconino County non-profit and government agencies have demonstrated successful partnerships previously so we know this can be done. This effort simply focuses on deflection and diversion.”
The researchers will also examine successful programs in Arizona such as Yavapai County’s Reach Out program and the Housing First model in Tucson as well as other programs across the US.
Initial findings of the NAU researchers
In their preliminary preparation investigation, the NAU researchers found that of the individuals admitted to CCDF, 40 percent are readmitted and 4 percent have more than 10 readmissions.
They found that individuals incarcerated at CCDF experience poorer physical, mental and behavioral health compared to the general population. They found that 36 percent had hypertension, 18 percent had high cholesterol, 15 percent had asthma, and 12 percent had diabetes or prediabetes.
Of the individuals sampled at CCDF, 26 percent said they had been told by a medical professional that they had post traumatic stress disorder compared to an estimated 3.6 percent in the general US population.
Additionally, 20 percent indicated they had bipolar disorder compared to 2.8 percent in the general US population, and 11 percent indicated they had schizophrenia compared to less than 1 percent in the general US population.
More than 80 percent of individuals sampled at CCDF also indicated they had ever used, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin while 76 percent of individuals reported using alcohol in the 30 days prior to admission to CCDF.
“The criminal justice system in the United States has a reputation for incarcerating individuals with substance use or mental health issues or both,” Carly Camplain said. These striking statistics emphasize the need for alternative services or additional services at CCDF as a holistic approach to reducing the incarceration rate.”
Evans said the high rates of incarceration, mental and behavioral health issues, and alcohol use stem from bigger basic needs in the county. The final goal of the Coconino County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is to increase intervention programs that will improve the social determinants of health — education, employment, housing, transportation, social and community engagement, access to health care — that may lead to decreases in incarceration and ultimately lead to healthier lifestyles.
“Once someone is incarcerated, a cascade of hurdles awaits them upon release that make it even more difficult to find work, housing, and all sorts of basic needs,” Evans said. “The design is such that we are plucking people from society and furthering the chance that they will remain on margins — this is exactly opposite of what we should be working toward.”
Eventually, if the results are conclusive, the final report will support resubmitting two Arizona House Bills for diversion programming, HB 2422 and 2414, that were not funded due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is so important because we have a high rate of arrests and incarcerations and such a dearth of resources for people,” Ricky Camplain said. “If these bills are funded and we come up with a good plan, we could potentially have substantial impact.”