Judge Roxanne Bailin Reflects on Distinguished Career Leading Boulder County Diversion Reform Efforts

By Dunia Dickey


Judge Roxanne Bailin’s distinguished career as a County Court Judge, a District Court Judge and Chief District Judge for the 20th Judicial District is impressive by any measure, but the accomplishment of which she is most proud is the difference her leadership has made for individuals with mental illness and substance use disorder involved in the criminal justice system in Boulder, Colorado.  Although she would say performing as a soprano with Boulder’s Cantabile Singers, a creative and satisfying personal outlet, is a close second.
Driving her efforts Canada goose jacket sale is the belief that as long as there are people who would not engage in criminal activity with the right treatment, we have a moral obligation to provide such treatment.  Jails should only be used for purposes of public safety, not for punishing people who need help.  Judge Bailin feels strongly that social justice needs to happen everywhere, including the criminal justice system, and she has dedicated her career to materializing this vision.
In 1985, Judge Bailin gathered a group C2010-503 of stakeholders to create a Social Opportunity and Support Program to look at the problem of chronic overcrowding in the Boulder County Jail, particularly by people who repeatedly committed low level crimes as a result of their mental illness and substance abuse.  Shortly after becoming Chief Judge in 1998, Judge Bailin formed a Mental Health Task Force which began identifying priorities canada goose Expedition Parka and funding for reform.
The first fruit of these discussions was the innovative Partnership for Active Community Engagement, or PACE, a partnership among various stakeholders designed to reduce the number of inmates in the Boulder County Jail by providing treatment and supervision for persons with serious mental illness who may also have a substance use disorder.  Since its inception in 1999, PACE has been credited with a 72 percent decrease in overall jail use, saving more than 10,000 jail-bed days each year at a cost of $61 per bed per day – a total of $610,000 savings annually – according to a University of C2010-598 Colorado study.  Attesting to its progressive nature, PACE accepts many individuals facing felony charges, provided that they do not present an unacceptable danger to the community canada goose jacketfazmassage.ca .
Shortly before her retirement in 2013, Judge Bailin was involved in the process that resulted in Project EDGE (Early Diversion Get Engaged), which diverts individuals with mental illness and/or substance use disorder to ongoing treatment, prior to and as an alternative to arrest.  Supported by a SAMHSA grant from 2013-2016, data is currently being gathered to demonstrate EDGE’s impact on recidivism for this vulnerable population.
Additionally, during her tenure on the bench Judge Bailin tackled bail reform, an issue of national concern affecting all pre-trial defendants booked in jail – many of whom suffer from mental illness.  Her Bail Reform Project worked toward replacing money bail with a risk assessment tool, which means the higher the level of an inmate’s risk to public safety, the higher the level of supervision, while out on bond.  One outcome of this reform is that individuals with mental illness and/ or substance use disorder who score low on the risk assessment measure are released into the community while awaiting trial, where they can receive access to treatment, whereas under a money bail system, in many cases, such persons would have remained in jail due simply to an inability to afford bail.  This reform follows research-based models that are gaining traction across the nation.


Since her retirement, Judge Bailin has been anything but “retired” from these causes.  Among other things, she has become an invaluable advisor and vocal advocate for the Equitas Foundation, helping recruit participants for the Early Diversion Sequential Intercept Model Mapping “Train the Trainers” Workshop in August 2015.  Judge Bailin personally joined the workshop and is now a trained facilitator who is well equipped to lead Sequential Intercept Model mapping exercises in rural communities around the state as part of the Equitas Foundation’s initiative, Diversion Power: Reengineering Care, Law Enforcement & Justice Systems.


What is the reason these reforms have successfully taken hold in Boulder?  Judge Bailin believes each community has a varying degree of risk tolerance for the behavior of persons with mental illness.  In many places, the answer is to arrest people with mental illness and substance use disorder, perceiving them to be a risk to public safety.  Boulder seems to have a higher tolerance for risk, and this is supported by Judge Bailin’s experience that many people with mental illness and some risk of dangerousness can be safely and successfully diverted from the criminal justice system, when they are carefully supervised in the community.  Understandably, such supervision requires a great deal of support, and Boulder is able and willing to providing such intensive support to clients of PACE and EDGE, among others.
None of these innovative programs would have been actualized without Judge Bailin’s leadership.  Her leadership philosophy lies in bringing people together and identifying the “wins” for each person around the table.  If everyone stands to benefit from collaborating toward shared solutions, such solutions are more likely to come about.  Also helpful is Boulder County’s commitment and investment in human services and its reputation as a place without many turf wars.  However, Judge Bailin believes any community can become more collaborative through the process of one committed individual gathering stakeholders who each have something to gain by working together.
As a result of local experiments such as those in Boulder County and numerous other communities, much research already has been accumulated regarding what works for diverting and supporting individuals with mental illness and substance use disorder out of the criminal justice system.  Evidence-based practices have been identified and data have been published.  Judge Bailin’s deep local impact has contributed to her national vision that communities around the country read and implement the knowledge that is already available, tempered by the recognition that every community is different and such programs must be tailored to that community’s particular needs.

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