By Natasha Robin | January 31, 2019 at 6:07 PM CST – Updated January 31 at 6:07 PM
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – “We are actually very lucky and we are very proud to say the least in that we ranked first,” says Tenisha Stevens.
Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s Criminal Justice Administrator, Tenisha Stevens, says the MacArthur Foundation chose New Orleans once again.
The national organization awarded the city a $2 million grant, a half a million dollars more than it did int 2016.
“We’re working on the law enforcement diversion program. We’re assisting the District Attorney with his diversion program,” says Stevens.
Some of the money, she says, will also be used for pre-trial services, which includes a risk assessment report on defendants after they’re arrested.
It’s what Magistrate Commissioners are supposed to look at to help determine a person’s bond.
Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission is critical of the risk assessments, and he says bond are being set at historically low levels, allowing suspected criminals to get out of jail.
“I think that the risk that an offender poses to a community is subordinate to the overall objective of trying to reduce the jail population,” says Goyeneche.
“Bail does not make our city safer, although, it’s a risk assessment. You have to release people, however, you should not release or detain people based on a dollar amount,” says Stevens.
Police arrested Arianne Shelby during a recent roundup of accused violent offenders. Shelby was booked with aggravated battery, accused of beating a pregnant woman and kicking her in the stomach. Pre-trial services determined Shelby was a risk level one and recommended release. The Commissioner gave Shelby a one thousand dollar bond and she got out of jail the next day.
“I’m all for reducing the jail population. I think anyone in law enforcement is for reducing the jail population, but the way you do that is you reduce crime, not release the people who are committing the crimes,” says Goyeneche.
“We need to look at risk factors as it relates to releasing people back to the community once they are arrested. On the other side of that, detaining people is also a risk and we have to look at the whole detention and release issue,” says Stevens.
The city says since 2015, it’s initiatives reducing the jail population by 25 percent and the MacArthur Foundation grant will help to continue it’s efforts.
“The Judge or Commissioner is responsible for setting an appropriate bail that not only helps the individual that is arrested but takes into consideration the public, the victims and the witnesses,” says Rafael Goyeneche.