University of Pennsylvania's Jerry Lee Center to Partner With 1st Judicial District in Homicide Prevention Initiative

PHILADELPHIA -- The First Judicial District of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania's Jerry Lee Center of Criminology are joining in an effort to reduce homicides in Philadelphia.  The program is supported by $1 million in city, state and private funding.

The First Judicial District has launched the Homicide Prevention Unit, a program based on homicide risk analysis to be housed in its Adult Probation and Parole Department.  The initiative falls under the ongoing Penn Violence Reduction Partnership, consisting of the District's community supervision agencies, APPD, Juvenile Probation and Pretrial Services and the Jerry Lee Center at Penn.  Criminologists at the Lee Center will provide special training and use advanced data-mining and risk-analysis methods never before applied to the city's probationers to develop data-driven strategies for the five probation officers assigned to the new unit.  These officers will then treat and supervise convicted felons who have the greatest risk of being charged with murder.   

The Jerry Lee Foundation's $500,000 contribution to the project, through established funding of Penn's Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, was matched in the new state budget by a $250,000 appropriation to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for Penn's analysis and evaluation and by the City of Philadelphia's $250,000 appropriation for the creation of the Homicide Prevention Unit.

"I am very proud to lend my support to this important initiative," Philadelphia philanthropist Jerry Lee said.  "The partnership between the University of Pennsylvania and the First Judicial District recognizes the need for finding new solutions to help stem the rising murder rate. If we can save even one life through the Homicide Prevention project, we will have been successful."   

Each week, scholars from the Jerry Lee Center and officials from the First Judicial District will meet to discuss statistical methods identifying high-risk offenders and analyzing how to use the Court's resources to not only supervise this population but help the most dangerous and endangered offenders cease criminal activity. The data-mining operation identifies probationers and parolees most at risk to commit or be victims of homicide.  Specialized probation officers assigned to those cases will monitor and provide rehabilitative services.

"The Adult Probation and Parole Department supervises more convicted offenders in Philadelphia than any other agency, but only a very small fraction of them are at a high risk of killing someone or being killed," said Lawrence W. Sherman, director of the Jerry Lee Center. "If we can pinpoint these 'needles in the haystack' and help them to turn their lives around, we might well help to make Philadelphia a safer city."