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Cooperative Agreement - Structured Decision Making Framework (SDMF) Site Implementation Project

Cooperative Agreements Cover
Jan 2018

The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) is seeking applications for funding under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. The Structured Decision Making Framework Tool (SDMF) is a standardized and structured approach to parole release decision making process that is a due diligence model grounded in evidence-based practice. This solicitation is for coordinating and delivering a specialized technical assistance (TA) program to assist paroling authorities in implementation planning and integrating the SDMF tool into their existing policies and practices.

Overview

In recent years, interest in high-quality parole decision making process has grown significantly. Paroling authorities are under considerable pressure and subject to substantial public and government scrutiny. It is in this environment that NIC developed, in collaboration with the Legal Decision-Making Lab of Carleton University, a tool – structured decision making framework (SDMF) – to improve decision making for offenders being released into the community from prisons. This tool, SDMF, acts as a road map or guideline for parole board members to help them reach, consistent, transparent and defensible release decisions. The structured approach guides parole board members through the deliberation process of making parole decision by considering the offender’s information that has been demonstrated to be closely linked to positive post-release performance.
 
The SDMF use has been supported through research in Canada and in the US by NIC. The research has demonstrated that using the SDMF increases both accuracy and accountability. Given the high stakes involved in parole decision making, even minimal improvements in the predictive accuracy can result in fewer victims and safer communities. In short, the SDMF is a standardized and structured approach or decision making process that has been validated. It is a due diligence model grounded in evidence-based practice.
 
Two years ago, NIC developed a specialized technical assistance (TA) program and process to assist paroling authorities in planning for and implementing the SDMF into their existing practices. NIC has administered the program with a total of eight (8) paroling authorities requesting assistance. One major expectation of this training program is to enhance public safety by better identifying those offenders who are ready for re-entry and those who are not.

Program-Specific Information

This specialized training program is offered to all paroling authorities in the US. It is a part of NIC’s strategy to directly assist state and local jurisdictions to improve their management of operations and services. Requesting paroling authorities must currently use a validated risk assessment and agree to complete all phases of the program. The following, are the four phases of the program:
  1. Readiness assessment phase- A series of assessment tools (questionnaires, focus groups, observations, file reviews and content grid assessments) are administered to parole board members and various DOC stakeholders to determine if the organization’s culture is “ready” and has the capacity to implement the tool with fidelity.
  2. Implementation planning phase – The paroling authority will develop an implementation/action plan designed to address all issues impacting implementation. These challenges are often identified during the first phase, the readiness assessment. Paroling authorities will develop policies and procedures, documents and practices that support the use of SDMF.
  3. Training phase – Parole board members and other DOC stakeholders are trained on the history and concepts of the SDMF tool. Training participants must demonstrate proficiency in the application of the SDMF to case studies. In addition, the training includes a review of any new forms, staff changes, policies/practices that the agency has developed related to the SDMF.
  4. Follow-up coaching phase - Paroling authorities will be assigned a “coach” to monitor their progress of the implementation SDMF. During this pilot stage of implementation, staff will be available to provide on-site, short-term assistance to the paroling authority.

DEADLINE: Applications must be received before midnight (ET) on March 20, 2018.


Please note effective July 1, 2013 the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) was merged to the System for Award Management (SAM).  The SAM registry and Frequently Asked Questions can be reached at http://www.sam.gov.  Please note that the registration process can take up to 1-3 weeks, so please plan accordingly.

Following are the responses to questions received as of February 5, 2018 in response to the above solicitation:

Question 1: Is a partnership between two or more entities required or are single entities eligible to apply?

Answer 1:   Applicants can chose to either partner with other organizations in submitting an application or not.  There is no requirement for a partnership application.  NIC will make only one award to the primary applicant.

Question 2:  If a partnership is required or encouraged, is the hope that we partner with a paroling authority that wants to participate in the project? If not, what kind of partnerships would be considered for this project?

Answer 2:  It is the applicant's choice if, and/or who they partner with in submitting an application to complete the stated scope of work.

Question 3:  If sites have not yet been identified for implementation, will it be the responsibility of the award recipient to identify and solicit implementation sites? 

Answer 3:  Implementation sites for this Structured Decision Making Framework Implementation Project have already been identified and selected by the NIC program manager.  The award recipient will not be responsible for this task. 

Question 4:  For this specific award, does the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) give preference to applications from paroling authorities?

Answer 4:  Application selection will be based on the selection criteria as outlined in the “application review” section of the solicitation.  This is a competitive funding process where applications are evaluated on 1) programmatic review; 2) organizational review and; 3) management/administration review – all three weighted differently.

Question 5:  Although the funding announcement states applicants from faith-based organizations are welcomed, is the organization required to already have a validated risk assessment in place?       

Answer 5:  Organizations submitting an application are not required to have a validated risk assessment.

Question 6:  Is the organization required to have its own site for conducting evaluations?      

Answer 6:  Organizations are not required to have a site for conducting evaluations.

Question 7:  Must the organization have an auditing agency that handles the finances, or can this be an individual who manages the funds?   

Answer 7:  Organizations submitting an application can have either a finance auditing agency or individual. The federal requirements for such are included in the solicitation.   See CFR 200.501 Audit requirements.

Question 8:  Is there a minimum number of employees required?

Answer 8:  NIC does not specify a minimum or maximum number of employees to include in the application.  The organization should determine needed staff size and skills to complete the stated scope of work.

Question 9:  How heavy does the reputation or recognized skill of the organization weigh on the grant awardee process?      

Answer 9:  Application selection will be based on the selection criteria as outlined in the “application review” section of the solicitation.  This is a competitive funding process where applications are evaluated on 1) programmatic review; 2) organizational review and; 3) management/administration review – all three weighted differently.

Question 10: What information do I need for page 16, h:" Evidence of for-profit status, e.g., a copy of the articles of incorporation, if applicable."

Answer 10: “Articles of Organization” are fine as evidence of for-profit status.

Question 11: Is there a copy of the SDMF Tool?

Answer 11: The SDMF Tool was developed with Carleton University of Canada through a cooperative agreement with NIC.  NIC uses the SDMF model to assist paroling authorities in its implementation.  NIC has been managing the implementation of the SDMF through its technical assistance (TA) program since 2014.  It is tailored by each paroling authority to meet their specific practices, policies, legislative mandates, and procedures. Therefore, the "tool" looks different for each participating paroling authority and is the property of that paroling authority (it is their decision of whether to share).  However, they all use the same following seven SDMF domains: criminal/parole history; institutional/community behavior; disinhibitors; responsivity; offender change; release plans and; case specific factors.  A copy of NIC’s final SDMF report is available to the public from NIC's Information Center.  It is entitled, "Analysis of the Use of the Structured Decisionmaking Framework in Three States" (NIC Accession #028408).  It explains the SDMF tool domains and the project assessment in great detail.

Question 12: Do you need to see/review the SDMF tool to create a work plan?

Answer 12: As indicated in the solicitation, the SDMF work plan framework is already provided.  It is based on the four phases as described in the “Program – Specific Information” section.   The awardee will work with NIC to assist each participating paroling authority in implementing its version of the SDMF tool based on the specific domains/areas.  It is tailored by each paroling authority to meet their specific practices, policies, legislative mandates, and procedures. Therefore, the "tool" looks different for each participating paroling authority. As a result, applicants do not need to see or review a SDMF tool to create a work plan. 

The following link is to the NIC document, Analysis of the Use of the Structured Decisionmaking Framework in Three States.  This document is available to the general public and describe the SDMF project in detail. 

Question 13: Who is allowed to apply for the solicitation?

Answer 13: The solicitation describes who is eligible to apply.