Our coder and developer friends are telling us to think of this as “the Peace Corps for geeks,” a new kind of public service that taps into America’s deep bench of technical talent for the public good.

Next year, Louisville is slated to join digital standouts such as San Francisco, New York and Austin (as well as South Bend, Ind. – go figure) as a Code for America grant city.

This is a big deal because CfA handpicks tech stars, as a superb Wall Street Journal story puts it, to spend a year of their lives in service to local governments across the United States. For 2012, there were 26 CfA fellows for eight project cities including Santa Cruz, Calif., New Orleans and Chicago.

More than 500 people have applied for as many as 30 slots for 2013, and some of that talent will be headed here.

In return, volunteer web developers, coders, designers and entrepreneurs develop new skills including “Gov. 2.0 Training,” a crash course in municipal government, and connections with leaders, entrepreneurs and digital innovators.

At this juncture, it looks like Louisville will use the program to solve problems related to pre-trial snafus, though we’re waiting to interview the Fischer Administration’s liaison to CfA.

This is from the CfA synopsis of Louisville’s proposal:

Louisville is a potential demonstration site for the Arnold Foundation to implement and evaluate data-driven pretrial justice strategies and ultimately to develop a national model for pretrial justice.  The CfA project will work to identify opportunities that enhance and improve the quality, consistency, and accuracy of data used to inform policy and assess programmatic outcomes for pre-trial justice reform.  More specifically, the fellows will also guide the development of technology tools and interfaces to facilitate tracking of defendants in pretrial status.

Goal: enhance local efforts in pre-trial justice reform

Key Outcomes:

  • Improved data collection system capabilities and data accuracy related to pre-trial decision-making
  • Improved use of data-driven decision making for pre-trial defendants
  • Increased knowledge and skills for system personnel and criminal justice agency heads on jail and pretrial-based technological applications

Lead Agency:  Louisville Metro Criminal Justice Commission

Core Partners: The Arnold Foundation, Metro Louisville Technology Services, Kentucky PreTrial Services (housed in Kentucky Court of Justice and Administrative Offices of the Courts), Kentucky Department of Corrections

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) played a uniquely important role in the 2013 fellowship program. Not only have they provided critical funding for the first two criminal justice fellowship projects in Louisville and New York City, but also worked extensively with potential applicant cities to ensure that the selected jurisdictions were positioned to make the most of this unique opportunity.

Code for America, based in San Francisco, get grants from grants from some of America’s largest foundations including the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation, The Kauffman Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as from companies such as Google and Google.

And it’s such a great effort that both liberal rag Mother Jones and conservative commentator and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have featured it!