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Evidence-based practice

Evidence-Based Decision Making (EBDM) is a strategic and deliberate method of applying empirical knowledge and research-supported principles to justice system decisions made at the case, agency, and system level. The initiative team developed the EBDM framework, which posits that public safety outcomes will be improved when justice system stakeholders engage in truly collaborative partnerships, use research to guide their work, and work together to achieve safer communities, more efficient use of tax dollars, and fewer victims.

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"EBDM is a strategic and deliberate method of applying empirical knowledge and research-supported principles to justice system decisions made at the case, agency, and system level. The initiative team developed the EBDM framework, which posits that public safety outcomes will be improved when justice system stakeholders engage in truly collaborative partnerships, use research to guide their work, and work together to achieve safer communities, more efficient use of tax dollars, and fewer victims. The goal of [National Institute of Corrections'] Evidence-Based Decision Making Initiative is to build a systemwide framework (arrest through final disposition and discharge) that will result in more collaborative, evidence-based decision making and practices in local criminal justice systems. The initiative is grounded in the knowledge accumulated over two decades on the factors that contribute to criminal reoffending and the processes and methods the justice system can employ to interrupt this cycle of reoffensed decisions can produce more effective policy decisions, and as a result, better outcomes for the community." Information about the NIC EBDM initiative can be found here. Points of access are: home--introduction; framework; phases—Phase I Framework Development, Phase II Planning Process, Phase III Implementation, and Phase IV Expansion to Statewide Structure, and Phase V - Building EBDM Capacity at the Individual, Agency, and System Levels; pilot sites—links to webpages with information about each of the seven pilot sites about: the EBDM stakeholders (i.e., the vision for EBDM, the EDBM executive committee composition, and what stakeholders in the pilot site are saying about the EBDM initiative), harm reduction goals, and material produced by the pilot site about EBDM in their jurisdiction; EBDM Roadmap Starter Kit—Activity 1--Build a genuine, collaborative policy team; Activity 2--Build individual agencies that are collaborative and in a state of readiness for change, Activity 3--Understand current practice within each agency and across the system, Activity 4--Understand and have the capacity to implement evidence-based practices, Activity 5--Develop logic models, Activity 6--Establish performance measures, determine outcomes, and develop a system scorecard, Activity 7--Engage and gain the support of a broader set of stakeholders and the community, and Activity 8--Develop a strategic action plan for implementation; documents—"Press Release Mesa County [CO]", "A Framework for Evidence-Based Decision Making in Local Criminal Justice Systems (A Work In Progress, Third Edition)", and the "EBDM Readiness Checklist"; and related publications.

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This brief covers results from the report "Evaluation of Phase II Technical Assistance for Evidence-Based Decision-Making in Local Criminal Justice Systems" by Janeen Buck Willison, Pamela Lachman, Dwight Pope, and Ashleigh Holand (issued June 2012) available at It "describes the EBDM Phase II technical assistance approach and presents findings and themes from the process evaluation and outcome assessment of the technical assistance delivered to the seven sites selected under Phase II of the EBDM initiative. In doing so, we [the authors] explore the effect of Phase II technical assistance on the sites’ readiness for implementation and examine the broader impacts of Phase II participation for these communities. The report concludes with a discussion of implications and recommendations for future technical assistance efforts, informed by the lessons learned as part of this assessment … Evaluation results offer ample evidence that Phase II training and technical assistance enhanced site capacity in critical areas (i.e., strengthened collaboration, increased EBDM and system knowledge, increased support for EBDM principles and practices, identified change targets, and facilitated strategic planning) essential for successful implementation. Furthermore, stakeholders generally rated the TA positively, giving it high marks on relevance, quality, responsiveness, and utility" (p. 2, 3).

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The reduction of recidivism by state judiciaries utilizing six principles of evidence-based practice (EBP) is explained. Seven sections follow an executive summary: introduction; current state sentencing policies and their consequences; drug courts -- the state judiciary's successful experiment with EBP; the principles of EBP; local sentencing and corrections policy reforms; state sentencing and corrections policy reforms; and conclusion. "[C]arefully targeted rehabilitation and treatment programs can reduce offender recidivism by conservative estimates of 10-20%" (p. 72).

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Evidence-based practice (EBP) is the objective, balanced, and responsible use of current research and the best available data to guide policy and practice decisions, such that outcomes for consumers are improved. Used originally in the health care and social science fields, evidence-based practice focuses on approaches demonstrated to be effective through empirical research rather than through anecdote or professional experience alone.

An evidence-based approach involves an ongoing, critical review of research literature to determine what information is credible, and what policies and practices would be most effective given the best available evidence. It also involves rigorous quality assurance and evaluation to ensure that evidence-based practices are replicated with fidelity, and that new practices are evaluated to determine their effectiveness.

In contrast [to the terms "best practices" and "what works," evidence-based practice implies that 1) there is a definable outcome(s); 2) it is measurable; and 3) it is defined according to practical realities (recidivism, victim satisfaction, etc.). Thus, while these three terms are often used interchangeably, EBP is more appropriate for outcome-focused human service disciplines.

(Source: Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice (2009). Implementing Evidence-Based Policy and Practice in Community Corrections, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: National Institute of Corrections.)

Guidance is provided to criminal defense attorneys concerning the use of evidence-based practices (EBP). Sections of this report include: executive summary; introduction; principles of EBP; the role of defense counsel as advocate in an EBP criminal justice system; the role of defense counsel as policy-maker; and conclusion.

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This is an article regarding the statewide implementation of evidence-based correctional practice. The Evidence-Based Practices Implementation for Capacity (EPIC) is a collaborative effort of five agencies in Colorado that “seeks to change the way correctional agencies conduct daily business by changing the ways that correctional staff interact with offenders” (p. 2). Mental Health First Aid training is one EPIC intervention aimed at detecting and helping people with mental health problems. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is another EPIC intervention and is described quite well. This article covers MI and corrections in the 21st century, the MI training and coaching process, stages of change, and the identification and addressing of criminogenic needs. Sections of this resource include: implementation science; selected interventions; EPIC accomplishments so far—1900 professionals trained for Mental Health First Aid and nearly 300 for MI, and and increase in offender “change talk” with declines in the use of multiple sequential questions (questions which lead to offender defensiveness).

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“What Is the Evidence? Evidence-based policy and practice is focused on reducing offender risk, which in turn reduces new crime and improves public safety. Of the many available approaches to community supervision, a few core principles stand out as proven risk reduction strategies. Though not all of the principles are supported by the same weight of evidence, each has been proven to influence positive behavior change. To organize the research, these core principles have been compiled… into the 8 Principles of evidence-based practice in corrections. This bibliography is not a complete list of “EBP” citations, but a mere selection based on questions we receive at the Information Center. They are organized according to: Introduction; In the Beginning; Principles 1 and 3. Assess Risk and Needs and Target Interventions--Risk, Need, Responsivity (RNR), and Dosage; Principle 2. Enhance Motivation to Change; Principle 4. Skill Training with Directed Practice (CBT); Principle 5. Increase Positive Reinforcement (See Incentives and Sanctions/Contingency Management); Principle 6. Engage Ongoing Community Support; Principles 7 & 8. Measure Relevant Processes and Practices and Measurement Feedback; Blueprints Programs; Caseload Size; Evaluated Programs, including Core Correctional Practices (CCP); Incentives and Sanctions/Contingency Management; Juveniles; Pretrial Services; Prisons; Sex Offenders; Specialized Assessment; Specialty Courts; Supervision by Risk Level; Women Offenders; Training Materials/Presentations; Websites; and Agency Reports.

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Anyone looking to reduce the amount of beds they need for pretrial detention should read this publication. It explains why evidence-based assessment of offenders can help reduce the need for current levels of or increased need for pretrial detention capacity. “Evidence-based assessment of the risk a defendant will fail to appear or will endanger others if released can increase successful pretrial release without financial conditions that may defendants are unable to meet. Imposing conditions on a defendant that are appropriate for that individual following a valid pretrial assessment substantially reduces pretrial detention without impairing the judicial process of threatening public safety” (p. 2). This document is divided into five sections: introduction; the law; the consequences of pretrial release versus incarceration; evidence-based risk assessment—the lesson of “Moneyball” and the challenge of adopting new practices; and the way forward.

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This brief provides a great introduction to forensic assertive community treatment (FACT). FACT is “an adaptation of the traditional assertive community treatment (ACT) model for people with serious mental illness who are involved with the criminal justice … ACT is a psychosocial intervention that was developed for people with severe mental illness (a subset of serious mental illness, marked by a higher degree of functional disability) who have significant difficulty living independently, high service needs, and repeated psychiatric hospitalizations” (p. 1). Sections cover: assertive community treatment; FACT adaptations; FACT evidence base; directions for further research of FACT’s effectiveness; and conclusions.

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