Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush Speaks at Smart Justice Tour


Recently, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell hosted a team from the National Association of Counties (NACo) for a “Justice System Dialogue” as part of its Smart Justice Tour. The Mayor invited them to Memphis to showcase some of Shelby County’s unique and innovative solutions to classic criminal justice problems.

Newly appointed Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and former Shelby County District Attorney General, Bill Gibbons presented on Operation Safe Community.

University of Memphis professor, Dr. Randy Dupont, discussed the Memphis Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The Memphis CIT is a nationally-recognized pre-arrest, jail diversion strategy that keeps those with serious mental illness from going to jail by sending specially trained police officers to de-escalate crisis situations. The approach, known as the “Memphis Model” is used by police departments and corrections systems across the country.

Finally, Chief Public Defender Stephen Bush presented on another approach to criminal justice-based intervention for those with serious mental illness: the Jericho Project. The Jericho Project, now more than a decade old, diverts people with serious mental illness and substance abuse issues from jail into the community with a comprehensive plan for mental health and substance abuse services. The project also provides medication management and intensive case management for a period immediately after release. Recidivism rates are about half the normal rate for those who complete the Jericho Project


Chief Public Defender Stephen Bush speaks to members of NACo’s Smart Justice team

As Bush pointed out to the team from NACo, Jericho clients spend less time in jail, cost the County fewer resources and come back to jail much less often than those who do not receive Jericho services. While in Memphis, NACo heard about some unique and successful things happening on in our community. The team also took home copies of the award-winning short film Voices of Jericho, which highlights three stories from Jericho.

Operation Safe Community, the Memphis Crisis Intervention Team and The Jericho Project all make Memphis a more Just City!