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System assessment

This report evaluates the New York City-based Arches Transformative Mentoring program, finding that participation in the program reduces one-year felony reconviction by over two-thirds, and reduces two-year felony reconviction by over half, with especially profound impacts for the youngest program participants. The program's evidence-based curriculum is completed over a 6-12-month period and delivered in a group setting by "credible messengers," direct service professionals with backgrounds similar to the populations they serve.

In 2012, Georgia passed comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation. The reforms restructured offense classifications and sentencing policies for drug and property offenses with the goal of tailoring justice system responses to the severity of the offense committed. This brief analyzes trends in commitments, sentence length, and time served for offense categories affected by the reforms. Commitments to prison for these offenses declined 13 percent, and probation commitments fell 9 percent. Average sentence length for most affected offenses fell following reforms, and time served in prison and on probation began to decline as well.

In 2010, South Carolina passed the Sentencing Reform Act, enacting comprehensive criminal justice reforms. One key reform encouraged the Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services to employ administration responses to parole and probation violations, rather than sending people to prison. This brief finds that, following these reforms, use of administrative responses increased. Reform implementation was associated with a decline in recidivism; people beginning supervision after the reforms were 33 percent less likely to be incarcerated after one year compared with pre-reform cohorts. Still, implementation of these reforms was impeded by several challenges, including delays, data limitations, and funding roadblocks.

Translating research into practice requires a systematic approach grounded in implementation science and input from practitioners. This document details such an approach for The Bridge Project— an effort designed to facilitate translation of juvenile justice research into actionable policy and practice changes through the development of practitioner-friendly, application-ready products. The underlying decision making framework for this project includes: a continuous consideration of evidence, stakeholder feedback, and input carefully weighed and considered at multiple decision points.

The field of corrections has long been recognized as a high stress profession. Previous research suggests that individuals who work in either institutional settings (i.e., prison, jail, juvenile detention) and/or community corrections (i.e., probation, parole, pretrial services) experience varying degrees of occupational, organizational, and traumatic stressors. If left unaddressed, corrections stress can lead to an assortment of personal and professional problems that could result in high staff turnover and vacancies, which in turn, jeopardize safety and effective programing. The National Institution of Corrections (NIC) invests in developing data-driven initiatives and solutions to assist jurisdictions in identifying and addressing the issues that contribute to corrections stress and create practices that help to maintain a healthy and productive work force. To guide development of initiatives and sustainable practices, KSL Research, Training, & Consultation LLC (KSL) conducted a needs assessment as part of a cooperative agreement with NIC. This assessment collected data from over 3,000 individuals across the United States who were employed in corrections. The assessment revealed several areas that NIC can potentially address through training and education programs.

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Delivering reentry services to youth proves challenging. This brief describes the implementation and sustainability of two Juvenile Second Chance Act reentry programs in Oklahoma and Virginia. Drawing from semi-structured interviews with grantees and community and state stakeholders conducted between 2013 and 2016, evaluators document the challenges to providing prerelease support and coordinating services among institutional and community supervision agencies and organizations.

The Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) is a system that rates the potential for therapeutic services to reduce recidivism among youth, by comparing programs to what prior evaluation has shown to be effective. SPEP ratings are intended to guide program improvements in a cycle of Continuous Quality Improvement. This report describes the general requirements and drivers of successful implementation of the SPEP, as informed by implementation at three sites participating in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Juvenile Justice Reinvestment and Reform Initiative. Trying to implement the SPEP often uncovers deficiencies in risk assessment systems, client tracking systems, and/or quality assurance systems that feed into SPEP ratings. As a result, implementing the SPEP typically takes two to three years, during which the SPEP can serve as a useful vehicle to motivate system improvements.

This report explains how jurisdictions have integrated the JJSIP [Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Project] and the JJRRI [Juvenile Justice Reform and Reinvestment Initiative] into a successful “evidence-based decision-making platform, consisting of validated risk and needs assessment tools, structured decision-making tools to assist in the better matching of the needs of youth involved in the juvenile justice system with the correct level of supervision and types of services, and evidence-based programs and services (p. 3). This evidence-based platform will reduce recidivism and increase positive youth outcomes, ensure public safety, and decrease juvenile justice system costs.

The Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) system rates how effectively juvenile justice services reduce recidivism. It is based on meta-analyses of programs’ effectiveness and has been validated in statewide analyses by comparing the recidivism of clients in well-rated versus poorly rated programs. This technical report describes an attempt to locally validate the system, using data from the Iowa site of OJJDP’s Juvenile Justice Reform and Reinvestment Initiative. The report provides basic information on programs and how they fared on the SPEP. Ultimately, the local data were unsuitable for a local validation because of limitations in the available risk data and other technical issues. The report provides lessons in what will be required to locally validate SPEP ratings.

In this publication, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) explores the feasibility of mobilizing an “organizational accident,” learning-from-error approach in the criminal justice system. We introduce the notion of the “sentinel event”: a bad outcome that no one wants repeated and that signals the existence of underlying weaknesses in the system.

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