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Understanding the Feasibility of Regional Lock-Ups

Faced with declining jail populations and an increased percentage of arrestees experiencing substance use and mental health episodes during overnight lock-up, a capital planning agency considered establishing regional lock-ups for overnight arrestees. The Ripples Group was retained to determine the operational and financial feasibility of such a solution.

For many years, criminal justice stakeholders have discussed the practicality of establishing county-based regional lock-ups in which to hold arrestees prior to court arraignment, as opposed to police department holding cells. Proponents have argued that centralizing arrestee lock-ups would allow for expanded health care services at a time when many arrestees are experiencing detoxification, mental health, and suicidal behaviors during overnight holding. One state’s Capital Planning Agency contemplated the potential cost savings and operational efficiencies that might result from centralized lock-up facilities and retained The Ripples Group to complete an operational and financial feasibility study for two major, urban counties.


The study is a prime example of The Ripples Groups’ experience in using data to inform policy and state programming. Ripples was charged with determining and quantifying the potential benefits and challenges, both financially and operationally, associated with a regional lock-up system. As part of the effort, Ripples collected arrestee information from the 77 municipal and state police departments operating in those counties – data that had, previously, never been aggregated. Data points used in the analysis included frequency, duration, and timing of arrests, instances of mental health events, hospitalization, and detoxification during holding, as well as police officer staffing levels. Ripples’ geospatial analyses quantified the transportation costs associated with transferring arrestees from police departments to the County Sheriff’s holding facilities which was a primary barrier to municipal adoption of regional lock-ups. Ripples analyses determined the number of arrestees to be accommodated at the regional lock-ups, including medical capacities, and quantified the cost-benefit of such solutions for police departments and County Sheriff’s’ Offices.


The Ripples Group analysis was conducted in tandem with input and check-in sessions with key thought leaders and stakeholders, resulting in a nuanced and robust result. The synthesis culminated in a financial and operational feasibility report that was extremely well received and will inform future lock-up facility plans pending funding.

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