CHAPTER 8

Empowering Communities and Building Capacity

In FY 2012, BJA led a number of activities to enhance the capacity of community residents, organizations, partners, and criminal justice leaders to effectively collaborate in identifying and effectively responding to crime issues. These strategies also enhanced the capacity to deter crime and to enhance perceptions of community safety and trust with criminal justice staff and policymakers. In addition, BJA collaborated with the research community, policymakers, and criminal justice practitioners to enhance use of data and research in developing and managing crime responses and investments and to generate new evidence to assist the field. Finally, BJA led new efforts to increase efficiencies and effectiveness in the provision of TTA.

Building Neighborhood Capacity Program

In FY 2011, BJA expanded the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program, supported integration of evidence into program development, enhanced knowledge management, coordinated services to strategically deliver TTA to the field, and supported and facilitated policymaker collaboration.

The Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) is a White House-led federal partnership that supports the transformation of distressed neighborhoods into neighborhoods of opportunity that provide the resources and environments that children, youth, and adults need to thrive. This initiative is a partnership among five federal agencies—the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Treasury—as they work to organize federal resources and develop policies that more effectively support neighborhood transformation efforts. NRI is founded on the belief that desired change can best be achieved by addressing interrelated issues in education, employment, financial security, housing, economic development, physical and behavioral health, and community and household safety. The initiative operates under a shared theory of change: a coordinated effort to increase the quality of a neighborhood’s assets, sustained by local leadership over an extended period, will improve resident well-being and community quality of life.

BJA’s BNCP is a key component of NRI. BNCP is designed to help low-income neighborhoods build the infrastructure and resources needed to ensure that families experience better results in education, employment, safety, housing, and more and to illustrate how communities around the country can build capacity to transform distressed neighborhoods into neighborhoods of opportunity. Funded through an interagency agreement among the Departments of Justice, Education, and Housing and Urban Development, BCJI provides intensive TTA to faith-based, nonprofit, and community organizations over a period of at least 30 months to help these neighborhoods design and begin pursuing results-driven, sustainable revitalization plans. In late 2012, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) was competitively selected to provide TTA to these neighborhoods and to establish an online resource center for anyone interested in sustainable revitalization.

In 2012, BJA worked with the federal management team and CSSP to develop a framework and training materials to implement the BNCP effort, support the creation of a resource center, and conduct an intensive selection process for the sites. This included historical analyses of data on community distress, application review, and site visits. In July, eight neighborhoods were selected within the four chosen cities to receive targeted technical assistance to develop capacity around the essential elements of healthy neighborhoods. The neighborhoods are Flint, Michigan’s Ward 1 and Ward 3 neighborhoods; Memphis, Tennessee’s Binghamton and Frayser neighborhoods; Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Amani and Metcalfe Park neighborhoods; and Fresno, California’s El Dorado and Southwest neighborhoods. During the second half of 2012, CSSP worked with the federal management team and sites to assess capacity, recruit and hire staff at the community and citywide levels, and host a kickoff orientation  for these site coordinators.

BCJI 2012 Grantees

Policymaker Collaboration

Building Sustainable Capacity to Engage in Strategic Planning

The National Criminal Justice Association, with support from BJA, provided TTA in strategic planning to State Administering Agencies (SAAs) in 20 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia. TTA services have been tailored to the needs, planning scopes, and timelines established by SAAs.

As a result of this TTA, SAAs are spending a greater portion of their JAG Program funds on data collection and analysis. SAAs across the country are devoting significant staff resources to reaching out more broadly than ever before to their stakeholder communities for input and development of a statewide strategic plan. The strategic plans are becoming more sophisticated in their use of data to inform what works to prevent and reduce crime. To an increasing degree, SAAs are requiring their subgrantees to gather and conduct more analysis on their priority crime initiatives and to submit applications for funding of projects that are proven to work, are seeking to replicate evidence-based practices from other jurisdictions, or will include the analysis of data to measure outcomes.

FY 2012 project highlights include:

In FY 2012, NCJA and BJA produced the publication SAA Strategic Planning: Stakeholder Engagement Strategies. The first in a series of assessments that describes how SAAs engage in strategic planning, this document examines stakeholder identification, outreach, and the most commonly used engagement strategies. The assessment shows that planning efforts by SAAs have varied greatly in size, planning period, and system inclusivity; many of these variations have to do with planning scope, SAA statutory authority, and planning capacity. In addition, this report provides information on data integration  and strategic planning consensus-building strategies.

In FY 2012, NCJA received supplemental funding of $650,000 to continue the project for 2 more years.

Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Network

With funding from BJA, the Justice Management Institute, the Pretrial Justice Institute, and the National Association of Counties created the National Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) Network to enable regular information sharing and to help disseminate promising practices. The goal of the National CJCC Network is to strengthen the ability of local policymakers to improve local level criminal justice planning and policy development, which will benefit all disciplines in the criminal justice system. The network is composed of leaders and top-level staff from 12 of the most-advanced CJCCs across the country that have major roles in shaping decisions regarding criminal justice to:

Through a series of webinars and publications, the National CJCC Network has reached hundreds of local justice practitioners, policymakers, and members of local CJCCs. Listed below is a summary of the major network accomplishments and deliverables for FY 2012:

Governors’ Criminal Justice Policy Advisors Project

The National Governors Association (NGA) Center assists governors and their criminal justice and public safety advisors in meeting criminal justice policy priorities by applying lessons from current research and practice to promote evidence-based policies. For the last 10 years, the NGA Center has supported a network of governors’ criminal justice policy advisors with the goal of improving how criminal justice policy decisions are made within states by providing a nexus between research and policy. NGA works with these advisors and provides a trusted and confidential forum for them to learn about current research and practice. This network is the only venue specifically designed to provide governors’ criminal justice advisors a place to learn about emerging research and to discuss with their peers its implications for state criminal justice policy. Building on a training for new criminal justice advisors hosted in 2012, NJC hosted a range of technical assistance to states.

In FY 2012, the NGA Center provided technical assistance to 15 states, including Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Assistance included:

NGA also hosted conference calls for all governors’ criminal justice policy advisors to provide them an opportunity to connect with their peers from across the country, learn from researchers and experts about best practices related to public safety and criminal justice policy, and receive program and funding updates from BJA. One such call featured a presentation on the Pew Public Safety Performance Project’s report, “Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms.”

In addition, in August 2012, BJA and NGA hosted a national webcast for governors’ offices and state policymakers on policies and strategies that states can adopt to provide inmate health care in more cost-effective ways. The webcast provided an overview of the primary drivers of health care costs and recommended policies and strategies states can adopt to reduce those costs. Within the first 3 months of airing, the webcast was viewed 2,900 times.

Integrating Evidence

BJA is finalizing a plan to more systemically integrate and translate research knowledge and methods, as well as data, into its everyday processes and procedures. This plan is based on innovative approaches that BJA has piloted, especially in the areas of drug courts, reentry, community corrections, and smart policing. In these areas BJA staff have reviewed, summarized, and translated the research for the field. They have also identified  the key model components and included these requirements, along with the translated research, in funding solicitations. For example, the FY 2012 Second Chance Act Adult Offender Reentry Program for Planning and Demonstration Projects grant announcement included an appendix titled “What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Program is Built on Principles of Effective Practice.” This appendix included six research-supported principles of evidence-based correctional practice that are widely accepted as strategies to reduce future criminal behavior and provided brief descriptions of the importance of putting each principle into practice. In addition, BJA is working with staff from the OJP Assistant Attorney General’s Evidence Integration Initiative Team and from NIJ to examine the research and evidence in criminal justice and incorporate these findings into the BJA decisionmaking process. BJA staff is also in critical leadership roles on the OJP Institutional Review Board, the CrimeSolutions.gov working group, and OJP Science Advisory Board BJA Subcommittee, connecting the needs of practitioners through translation, ethical research, and building capacity through enhanced collaborations between practitioners and researchers.

Generating New Knowledge

In an effort to produce new knowledge in the areas of probation and post-release community supervision, BJA, in partnership with NIJ, is involved in two Demonstration Field Experiments (DFE). DFEs allow BJA and NIJ to bring the rigor of science to program implementation, including the use of randomized controlled experiments, tracking and coaching for program fidelity, and strength in data collection and analysis. The TTA partner and the independent evaluator are key partners in the process.

In 2012, BJA and NIJ began the implementation of the probation DFE that is replicating the Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement probation model, a program in Hawaii that is showing strong evidence of success. During 2012, this implementation, dubbed the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) DFE, was begun in four sites: Clackamas County, Oregon; Essex County, Massachusetts; Saline County, Arkansas; and Tarrant County, Texas.

The second DFE, the post-release community supervision model, is an extension of BJA’s SCA reentry initiatives. BJA is currently working with NIC to develop four innovative training modules for the SCA DFE sites. BJA also funded a study that examined the prevalence of mental illness among women in jails as well as the pathways to jail for women with and without mental illnesses.

Hawaii HOPE DFE

BJA and NIJ teamed up to replicate the Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement program. NIJ is funding the evaluation of the BJA demonstration sites. The four sites selected for this DFE are located in the Northwest, the Northeast, and two in the Southwest. This DFE is rigorously testing whether the HOPE probation model can promote the successful completion of probation for high-risk probationers. DFE sites are being asked to examine risk assessment scores, criminal histories, and prior behavior on probation to determine which probationers are at high risk for failing probation through drug use, missed appointments, and/or reoffending. After the pool of high-risk probationers has been determined, they are being randomized into one of the following groups: (1) HOPE probation or (2) probation as usual. Research coordinators onsite facilitate the randomization process and collect data throughout the experiment. There are also Project Coordinators located onsite to monitor implementation fidelity. The evaluation team will also follow up with offenders for 12 months after they leave the program.

In FY 2012, $232,873 was provided to TTA partner, Pepperdine University, and $3.16 million was provided for the site-based awards.

Second Chance Act DFE

BJA released a solicitation to fund three demonstration sites to test a crime desistance-based reentry model. This project will be a collaborative effort among BJA, NIJ, and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). BJA will fund the demonstration sites, NIJ has funded the evaluation, and NIC will develop and deliver the training and facilitate the technical assistance and coaching to the sites. BJA, NIJ, and NIC are supporting  this multisite DFE in an effort to significantly expand the body of evidence associated with improving the outcomes for offenders reentering the community. This DFE will combine a multisite demonstration of a reentry model with rigorous experimental evaluation in an applied setting. Both the parole officers and the parolee participants will be randomized into treatment and control groups.

BJA is currently working with NIC and their partners to develop a set of curricula focused on improving the interactions between the parole officer and the parolee and improving the outcomes of parolees. The desistance framework will be the underpinning for these curricula, which will include modules for Effective Core Correctional Practices, Integrated Case Management & Supervision, and Motivational Therapy. The NIC “Thinking for a Change” 3.0 curricula will also be incorporated into the training for offenders.

To generate new knowledge about effective solutions for working with offenders in the community and to enhance practice, this DFE will be focused on examining the community-based components of a comprehensive reentry strategy. This DFE will also examine how post-release interactions, programs, services, and activities impact parolees. The results from this DFE are expected to enhance the knowledge base for working with post-release offenders in the community. Final site selection is expected to take place in spring 2013.

Women’s Pathways to Jail

Jail administrators have reported that the presence of women with mental illness is an increasing problem in local jails, with many of the same female inmates cycling in and out of jails repeatedly. Consequences include jail overcrowding, increased pharmacological costs, and stress for correctional personnel who may be ill-equipped to address mental illness. Unfortunately, few studies have examined the prevalence of serious mental illness among women in jails. This project examined the prevalence of mental illness among women in jails and pathways to jail for women with and without mental illness. The sample included 491 women in both urban and rural jails from 4 geographical regions of the United States: the Southwest, Mid-Atlantic, Northwest, and Deep South. The study found that:

The information from this study can help criminal justice professionals develop strategies to address and respond to these issues. This information can also help the field enhance mental health screening at jails as well as gender-responsive programming for primary prevention, rehabilitation, and reentry back into the community.

BJA posted the final report to its web site and requested that other criminal justice agencies link to the report on their web sites. A BJA Policy Brief that summarizes the report also was developed and released in March 2013.

Tools for the Field

Risk-Needs-Responsivity Simulation Tool

BJA partners with George Mason University (GMU) and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell to develop a Risk-Needs-Responsivity (RNR) simulation tool to help federal, state, and local jurisdictions define the types and nature of correctional options available in their jurisdictions. The tool will help these agencies and nonprofit organizations use the risk-need-responsivity approach. The tool has three goals. In “Assess Your Jurisdiction,” the goal is to define the type and nature of correctional options available in their jurisdictions. “Assess Your Program” will allow practitioners to assess the programs they already provide, based on intensity of liberty restrictions, treatment offered, content, implementation, and quality. Finally, “Assess an Individual” will allow practitioners to assess an individual’s program needs based on risk and criminogenic needs. The user will enter the individual’s risk level and several criminogenic needs he/she has, and the tool will then recommend programming for that individual. This tool will use a compiled database to assess reductions in recidivism, and it will provide the ability to be customized to the local jurisdiction or program.

GMU has finalized the tool, available at www.gmuace.org/research_rnr.html, and is currently in the pilot phase with a few jurisdictions. GMU also completed the background documents for the tool, which describe the underlying assumptions, the research base, and how the tool reaches its projections and recommendations.

Skills for Offender Assessment and Responsivity in New Goals

GMU’s Skills for Offender Assessment and Responsivity in New Goals (SOARING-2) will create a suite of web-based tools that can facilitate the development of knowledge and skills to sustain evidence-based practices (EBPs), with the goal of providing tools that supplement traditional correctional and judicial academies. SOARING-2 is designed to provide in-office skill development for the individual staff and agencies to facilitate the sustainability of EBPs and to provide innovative tools to assist staff in managing offender outcomes.

The purpose of the project is to increase knowledge—(1) declarative knowledge (“what,” meaning of terms), (2) procedural knowledge (“how”), and (3) strategic knowledge (when to apply the technique)—for professionals in a manner that involves cognitive, interpersonal, and psychomotor skills or tasks, and then to evaluate its impact on outcomes in select probation settings. In May 2012, GMU selected the following sites to pilot the training: New York, New York; City and County of San Francisco, California; Los Angeles, California; Orange County, California; Montgomery County, Pennsylvania; Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; and Ames, Iowa. This training will be made available in FY 2013 and can be accessed at http://soaring2.gmuace.org.

Cost-Benefit Knowledge Bank for Criminal Justice

Few jurisdictions know what return on investment they are getting for their criminal justice system expenditures. Assumptions are made about the financial and substantive effects of policy and program choices without much solid information on the real costs or benefits incurred. Yet this information is highly relevant to the decisions policymakers and practitioners need to make, particularly in the current challenging fiscal climate. To address this gap, BJA has funded the Vera Institute of Justice to build and support a national knowledge bank for cost-benefit analysis in criminal justice. The Cost-Benefit Knowledge Bank for Criminal Justice (CBKB) is helping practitioners and policymakers better understand the economic pros and cons associated with criminal justice investments. These resources and activities will also help support policymakers and practitioners in building their capacity to promote, use, and interpret cost-benefit analysis in criminal justice settings, with the ultimate goal of helping them to identify interventions that are both effective and affordable for their jurisdictions and allocate resources accordingly.

CBKB staff are currently working with six sites to help them build their cost-benefit analysis capacity. During FY 2012, the CBKB staff produced a number of webinars, maintained and updated a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) blog, and developed information to help the field monetize benefits. All of this information is available at http://cbkb.org. The CBKB team has also been working to provide CBA technical assistance to four jurisdictions: Allegheny, Pennsylvania (focused on day reporting centers and diversion services); Denver, Colorado (jail and reentry programming); Kent, Washington (intelligence-led policing and automated license plate readers); and York County, Pennsylvania (DUI treatment court).

Training and Technical Assistance Coordination

Established in 2008, the BJA National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) facilitates the delivery of high-quality, strategically focused TTA to achieve safe communities nationwide. Promoting the mission of BJA, NTTAC coordinates the provision of rapid, expert, and data-driven TTA that supports practitioners in the effort to reduce crime, recidivism, and unnecessary confinement in state, local, and tribal communities.

The mission of BJA’s NTTAC, www.bjatraining.org, is to provide guidance to grantees and nongrantee criminal justice professionals to replicate model programs and approaches; increase knowledge and use of best practices, emerging technologies, and proven strategies; and assist agencies and jurisdictions in identifying operations and program needs. The TTA services provided through NTTAC cover the broad set of BJA’s program areas to address the needs of criminal justice practitioners and agencies, elected officials, and community organizations. The services offered include assistance in implementing evidence-based programs, curriculum development, data analysis, onsite and distance learning training, peer-to-peer visits, responding to research and information requests, and strategic planning assistance.

During FY 2012, the following accomplishments were achieved:

The information below summarizes the TTA requests in FY 2012:

TTA by Topic Area


Types of Organizations

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