Office of Justice Programs Solutions for Safer Communities - BJA - FY 2013 - Annual Report to Congress

Chapter 3

Integration of Evidence-Based, Research-Driven, and Field-Initiated Strategies into the Programs BJA Administers and Supports

Programs based on solid research and data benefit every aspect of the criminal justice system. They make law enforcement safer and more effective, they improve court and corrections outcomes by lowering recidivism and introducing efficiency, and they improve communities by deterring crime and enhancing public safety. They also save taxpayers money by ensuring that every dollar goes to programs proven to work. BJA has a history of piloting innovative approaches, especially in the areas of drug courts, reentry, community corrections, and smart policing. In these areas, BJA staff have reviewed, summarized, and translated the latest research for the field. They have also identified the key model components and included these requirements, along with the translated research, in funding solicitations. BJA continues to systemically integrate and translate research knowledge and methods, as well as data, into its everyday processes and procedures.

Encouraging Innovation: Field-Initiated Programs

BJA's Encouraging Innovation: Field-Initiated Programs is designed to support programs that seek to prevent and reduce crime and enhance the criminal justice system through collaboration, working with the field to identify, define, and respond to emerging or chronic crime problems and systemic issues. The strategies funded under this program include trying new approaches, addressing gaps in responses, building or translating research knowledge, and building capacity to address field-defined issues. The program provides an opportunity for a small number of local, state, tribal, and national projects to bring fresh perspectives and ideas to enhance practices and prevent crime in the field.

In FY 2013, BJA piloted a new two-phase solicitation process aimed at improving the quality of grant applications while saving applicant and federal agency time. In phase one, applicants submitted a concept paper that briefly described the criminal justice problem to be addressed and the applicant's innovative or strategic proposal to address the issue. Subject matter experts on staff reviewed the concept papers and recommended which papers should move forward. In phase two, applicants submitted full applications, which were then reviewed and selected according to the standard OJP peer review process.

In FY 2013, BJA made 11 awards in two categories to state, local, and national organizations totaling more than $4 million. Four awards were made to category 1 applicants, which proposed to test a strategy at the state, local, or tribal level; document implementation; and develop tools to support national replication. Category 1 awards totaled approximately $1.5 million. Seven awards were made to category 2 applicants, which proposed to develop national or regional strategies that address a critical need or gap in the field.

FY 2013 funded projects include the following:

  • A category 1 project in Ohio in the amount of $372,705 will develop a formal statewide mechanism through which researchers can partner with practitioners to conduct evaluations of promising programs and share information and expertise to provide evidence-based solutions to crime problems. The awarded organization will provide research, evaluation, data analysis, and other technical support directly to local Ohio agencies that seek assistance in solving local crime and justice problems.
  • A category 2 project in South Dakota in the amount of $399,244 will focus on administration segregation reform in the South Dakota Department of Corrections (SDDOC). The project will assess current administrative segregation practices within the SDDOC and use those assessment results to implement data-driven alternative strategies to safely and effectively reduce administrative segregation bed days and reduce the safety risks posed by inmates during and after their time in special housing. The project will share lessons learned with other states.

For more information on BJA's Encouraging Innovation: Field-Initiated Programs, visit www.bja.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?Program_ID=105.

Smart Suite Programs

BJA's Smart Suite of programs promotes strategic partnerships between criminal justice practitioners and local research partners to identify and implement the most effective strategies to reduce and prevent crime in their communities. This model is evident in the following BJA programs:

  • Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun, gang, and crime violence by networking with existing local programs that target these issues and providing them with the tools necessary to be successful.
  • The Smart Policing Initiative assists police departments in identifying effective tactics for addressing specific crime problems based on rigorous analysis and promoting organizational change using evidence-based strategies. (To learn more about SPI, see Smart Policing Initiative.)
  • The Smart Prosecution Program will fund county and city prosecutors to develop initiatives that use local criminal justice data to develop effective and economical prosecution strategies regarding specific crime problems in their jurisdictions.
  • The Smart Pretrial Program will test the cost savings and public safety enhancements that can be achieved when jurisdictions move to a pretrial model that uses risk assessment to inform decisionmaking and employs best practice strategies for risk management (such as supervision and diversion).
  • The Answering Gideon's Call Program (Smart Defense) will contribute to indigent defense by encouraging and providing TTA for the development of innovative, data-driven approaches to indigent defense delivery systems.
  • The Smart Supervision Program is designed to develop more effective and evidence-based probation programs that effectively address offenders' needs, reduce recidivism, and improve probation and parole success rates, which will in turn improve public safety and save taxpayer dollars.
  • The Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program (BCJI), part of the Obama Administration's Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, works to improve community safety through communitywide partnerships that target neighborhoods with serious crime hot spots and employ data-driven, cross-sector strategies to reduce crime and violence. (To learn more about BCJI, see Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program.)

Demonstration Field Experiments

BJA and NIJ are jointly conducting two demonstration field experiments (DFE) in the areas of probation and post-release community supervision. DFEs produce new knowledge in key areas of criminal justice by applying the rigor of science to program implementation and then (1) evaluating those programs through randomized controlled experiments, (2) tracking and coaching for program fidelity, and (3) strengthening data collection and analysis. In both cases, BJA funds the demonstration sites and NIJ funds evaluation efforts.

The first project, the Honest Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) DFE, is replicating the Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement model. The four sites selected for this DFE are being rigorously tested to determine whether the HOPE model can promote the successful widespread completion of probation for high-risk probationers.

The second project, the Changing Attitudes and Motivation in Parolees DFE, plans to significantly expand the body of evidence associated with improving the outcomes for offenders reentering the community. Based on a crime desistance-based reentry model, this multisite DFE will examine how postrelease interactions, programs, services, and activities affect parolees. The results from this DFE are expected to enhance the knowledge base for working with post-release offenders in the community. BJA and NIJ are currently working with the National Institute of Corrections to finalize the curricula and TTA plan for this effort.

Risk-Needs-Responsivity Simulation Tool

BJA collaborated with George Mason University (GMU) and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell to develop a Risk-Needs-Responsivity (RNR) Simulation Tool. The simulation tool is designed to help federal, state, and local agencies and nonprofit organizations use the evidence-based RNR approach to define the types and nature of correctional options available in their jurisdictions. The tool has three goals: "Assess Your Jurisdiction" helps practitioners define the type and nature of correctional options available in their jurisdictions; "Assess Your Program" enables practitioners to assess existing programs based on intensity of liberty restrictions, treatment offered, content, implementation, and quality; and "Assess an Individual" enables practitioners to assess an individual's programming needs based on risk and criminogenic needs. This customizable tool uses a database compiled from national, state, and local data to assess reductions in recidivism. It is currently being piloted in multiple U.S. jurisdictions.

To view the final version of the RNR Simulation Tool, visit www.gmuace.org/research_rnr.html.

Skills for Offender Assessment and Responsivity in New Goals

BJA partnered with GMU to develop Skills for Offender Assessment and Responsivity in New Goals (SOARING2), a web-based training system for building knowledge and skills associated with evidence-based practices for the effective management of offenders. SOARING2 training consists of five modules—Risk-Need-Responsivity, Motivation and Engagement, Case Planning, Problem Solving, and Desistance—that are designed to encourage the use and sustainability of evidence-based practices, which in turn can improve offender management outcomes. Individuals can complete the online training at their own pace and return to the material as needed. A number of probation offices have requested and administered the SOARING2 training. A module for tribal-focused use is currently in development.

To learn more about SOARING2, log in to the system at http://soaring2.gmuace.org.

Science Advisory Board

BJA continued to work with the OJP Science Advisory Board BJA subcommittee, which consists of a group of experienced criminal justice researchers tasked with reviewing BJA programs and making recommendations to encourage evidence-based principles and greater relevance to practitioners. This subcommittee focuses on helping BJA improve its strategies and capacity for program evaluations, program implementation, and methods to foster strong researcher-practitioner partnerships. The subcommittee also provides information and suggestions to help BJA clarify models of change, enhance data collection and measurement in the field, strengthen organizational arrangements at the local level, and translate research for grantees and practitioners to use.

To learn more about the OJP Science Advisory Board, visit http://ojp.gov/sab.htm.

Research-Practitioner Partnerships

BJA is partnering with Michigan State University to develop and test the Violence Reduction Assessment Tool (VRAT). VRAT assists communities with (1) assessing their local violent crime problems; (2) identifying evidence-based and promising strategies for reducing violent crime; and (3) linking communities to resources to reduce violence. VRAT will also assist communities in assessing their capacity to effectively implement these measures and identifying concrete steps to maximize the likelihood of effective implementation.

Additionally, BJA began working with the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) to support its development of a formal mechanism for criminal justice practitioners to gain access to, and funding for, experts in the field who are willing to provide practical, evidence-based solutions to obstacles faced by communities. OCJS is encouraging the use of evidence-based principles by providing research, evaluation, data analysis, and other technical support at no cost to local Ohio agencies that seek assistance. OCJS currently consists of 38 criminology and criminal justice researchers from 12 colleges and universities across Ohio.

BJA's National Training and Technical Assistance Center

NTTAC facilitates the delivery of high-quality, strategically focused TTA to support the broad range of BJA program areas. NTTAC also reinforces BJA's commitment to evidence-based strategies. It provides guidance to grantees and non-grantee criminal justice professionals to replicate model programs and approaches, increase knowledge and the use of best practices, promote emerging technologies and proven strategies, and assist agencies and jurisdictions in identifying and addressing their unique operational and programmatic needs.

NTTAC services include curriculum development, data analysis, onsite and distance learning training, peer-to-peer visits, research and information requests, and strategic planning assistance. In FY 2013, NTTAC coordinated 78 TTA requests across 6 topics areas, which represented an 11 percent increase from FY 2012.

Significant FY 2013 results include the following:

  • NTTAC designed and launched its web site (www.bjatraining.org), which had more than 10,000 visitors and nearly 93,000 page views, 137 news and event postings, 7 TTA spotlights, and 5 TTA Today blog posts.
  • The Boston Police Department (BPD) requested TTA to address reentry challenges using Geographic Information Systems (computerized mapping technology). The mapping results helped determine neighborhoods with high concentrations of returning inmates, the risks and needs of those inmates, and gaps in service. The Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) worked with BPD, the Massachusetts Department of Correction, and various service providers to gather data, discuss strategies, and make recommendations. Ultimately, CJI equipped BPD and the community with the tools necessary for managing returning inmates more effectively.
  • The Washington State Department of Corrections requested TTA to implement a probation model of community supervision that employs "swift-and-certain" sanctions, an evidence-based response to probation violations mandated by Washington State law in 2012. Though the full impact of this request will not be evaluated until it is completed, updates from the TTA provider, Pepperdine University, have demonstrated some immediate impact. For example, through onsite meetings with the implementation team, Pepperdine University was able to proactively troubleshoot barriers to implementation of swift-and-certain sanctions and develop coaching and training materials for problem-solving concerns.

To learn more about NTTAC's services and resources, go to www.bjatraining.org.