Results of a survey about the elements of the Justice System Improvement Program (JSIP) were presented to the Benton County Board of Commissioners during their June 14, 2022 work session. For all details, please view the presentation slides.
Benton County voters want their local government to prioritize investments that address mental health, community safety and people who are navigating homelessness, according to a poll commissioned by the County designed to gather feedback on projects related to the JSIP. The survey, conducted by DHM Research, interviewed 300 respondents between May 23 – 25, 2022, with a margin of error at ±5.7%
Only 23% of respondents were aware of JSIP, a multi-year project based on a comprehensive 2018 assessment of the community safety and justice system. The project is focused on investments in mental health and treatment for addiction, corrections, emergency operations, law enforcement, and the courts. Of those who were aware, only 6% knew that the JSIP includes additional mental health resources.
A new crisis center and corrections facility with mental health beds are top priorities for voters. Among respondents, 64% said the crisis center is a high or very high priority, versus 13% giving it a low priority. A corrections facility received similar support, at 56% high priority versus 20% low priority. Many residents support a new Sheriff’s office and emergency operations center (48-20), while support is lower for repurposing the historic courthouse (34-34) and building a new county courthouse (26-46). Overall, half of respondents said that a new crisis center is their top priority.
Seven in ten surveyed believe that a new crisis center and corrections facility with mental health beds will help address homelessness.
The Board will determine a preliminary Justice System Facilities package in August 2022. Funding for these new facilities will come from a variety of sources including nearly $30 million in resources leveraged by the County including state and federal funds for the Crisis Center, Courthouse, and a local bond measure, planned for May 2023. A final determination on what will be included in the bond measure will be made in 2022. Additional opportunities for public engagement, including public meetings and small group presentations will take place in September and October 2022.