Statistical Science ’25
At Duke, I have encountered challenges in finding academic opportunities that extended beyond the traditional classroom setting and excited me. Despite my efforts, I struggled to find a program that aligned with my interests until I discovered Bass Connections — specifically the Mental Health and the Justice System in Durham County project team. Since then, Bass Connections has been the highlight of my Duke experience.
Through our work on this project team, I feel a strong sense of fulfillment knowing that we are making a meaningful impact on the local community. Moreover, the opportunity to learn new skills and problem-solve has fostered my personal growth as a student and individual. I have also found a great support system in the undergraduates, graduate student and professors on my team. It has been a privilege to collaborate with not only other undergraduates, but also graduate students and faculty members. The atmosphere our team has created is so collaborative and supportive that I have been able to learn and grow more than I ever could in a typical classroom setting.
Our project focuses on the relationship between mental illness and rearrests rates in Durham County. This semester I worked on a subproject that examined the change in rearrest rates after a pre-trial release policy was passed in Durham County. This policy attempted to increase the number of individuals who would be released on their own recognizance instead of having to pay cash for bail. The cash-bail system, which mandates the payment of a deposit for pre-trial release from jail, has faced criticism for placing an unfair burden on low-income arrestees. Those who are unable to pay bail are disproportionately Black, more likely to plead guilty and serve longer sentences than those released on bond, controlling for crime severity.
From February through May of 2019, Durham County District Court judges and the District Attorney’s Office enacted parallel policy changes aimed at reforming cash bail and allowing low-level, non-violent arrestees to be released pre-trial (district attorneys make recommendations; judges set bail). To study the impact of the policy change in Durham County, we analyzed re-arrest data for arrestees with and without mental health and substance use disorder diagnoses from Duke Health, both before and after the implementation of the new policies. So far, the study has not shown evidence of increased failure to appear rates following the implementation of the cash-bail reform policy. It has, however, shown evidence that treatment for mental illness reduces risk of re-arrest.
It is amazing to see how my passion for statistics has grown throughout my experience in Bass Connections. I have been able to apply my academic knowledge to real-world scenarios and gain a better understanding of what my career in data analytics will entail post-graduation. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with such a wonderful team on the Mental Health and the Justice System in Durham County project this year. I cannot wait to come back next year and continue making a meaningful impact on our community.