Evidence-Based Practices Projects

Sponsors: National Institute of Corrections

Since 2008, the Center has engaged in a multi-phase, multi-year project to establish and test the application of research findings to key decisions across the justice system in an effort to achieve measurable reductions in pretrial misconduct and post-conviction risk of re-offending. The initiative is now beginning its seventh phase.

Phase I: During Phase I, the Center—along with the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) and the Center’s collaborative partners, The Pretrial Justice Institute, the Justice Management Institute, and The Carey Group—authored the EBDM initiative’s central document: A Framework for Evidence-Based Decision Making in State and Local Criminal Justice Systems (“the Framework”). The Framework was built upon a variety of inputs, including an extensive literature review; a series of substantive discussions among the project team members and NIC (“the project team”), as well as an active, multidisciplinary Advisory Committee; a national public opinion survey designed and administered by the project team; a series of focus group discussions with policymakers and practitioners; and a series of meetings with a group of non-criminal justice, evidence-based management experts (the “Innovators Group”).

During Phase I, the project team also drafted a communications strategy, with the tagline: “One Less _____. A Strategy for Safer Communities.” The campaign was designed to convey the message that every individual can contribute to safer communities. Other Phase I activities included the development of selection criteria and a solicitation request for “seed sites” for Phase II of the initiative, as well as a process and outcome evaluation plan that served as the basis of a solicitation to competitively select an evaluator to assess the impacts and outcomes of Phases II and III.

Phase II: During Phase II, seven jurisdictions from across the country were competitively selected to implement the EBDM Framework: Mesa County, Colorado; Grant County, Indiana; Ramsey County, Minnesota; Yamhill County, Oregon; City of Charlottesville/County of Albemarle, Virginia; Eau Claire County, Wisconsin; and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. The Center and the project team provided technical assistance to guide the sites through a series of steps in preparation for implementation. “Roadmap steps” included assessing current policies and practices, determining methods to more effectively integrate research at key decision points, and developing work plans for the implementation of EBDM, among others.

Phase III: During Phase III, the Center and the project team provided support to EBDM sites in the successful implementation of critical change strategies, development of communication strategies, and measurement of data to track progress toward meeting systemwide goals. Examples of change strategies implemented in the local sites include:

  • employing and validating local pretrial risk assessment tools;
  • implementing universal screening of pretrial defendants;
  • adding or redesigning diversionary policies and practices and basing selection for diversion on risk reduction research and outcome-driven decisions;
  • aligning interventions with individuals based upon their level of risk and criminogenic needs;
  • implementing evidence-based approaches to specific offender populations (e.g., domestic violence, female offenders) throughout the criminal justice process; and
  • implementing decision making guidelines to respond to violations of pretrial and post-sentence release conditions.

Prior to launching Phase IV of the EBDM Initiative, the Center partnered with NIC to pilot test a protocol to expand the EBDM effort in the seven selected sites to a broader group of criminal justice system stakeholders. The Center developed the protocol for engaging state level teams in the process of applying EBDM to decision points at the state level, and pilot tested it through the conduct of a statewide summit on EBDM in the State of Wisconsin.

Phase IV: Starting in 2013, the initiative shifted its focus to replicating the EBDM Framework on a statewide level in order to demonstrate the value of its expansion beyond single, local jurisdictions. The Center and project staff worked closely with planning teams in five states—Colorado, Indiana, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin—to consider whether and how to expand their EBDM efforts beyond the original local teams to include additional local jurisdictions and state-level teams. Planning teams in these states conducted exploratory analyses of their policies, practices, and data capacity; took steps to gauge the level of interest in and understanding of EBDM across their state; and conducted EBDM awareness-building activities. As a result of these activities, each state identified the most strategic alignment of state and local partners to support the advancement of EBDM within their state.

Phase V: In November 2014, Indiana, Virginia, and Wisconsin were selected, on a competitive basis, to work in partnership with NIC on Phase V of the initiative. The goal of Phase V was to advance criminal justice system outcomes throughout communities in the selected states. As in the previous phases, these jurisdictions received technical assistance from the Center and the project team to conduct a series of planning activities, with the goal of implementing systemwide change strategies to align local and state jurisdictions with one another and with the principles of EBDM.

The following 21 teams participated in Phase V of the EBDM initiative:

  • Indiana: State EBDM policy team, Bartholomew County, Hamilton County, Hendricks County, Jefferson County, Porter County, Tipton County.
  • Virginia: State EBDM policy team, Chesterfield/Colonial Heights, Norfolk, Petersburg, Prince William County/Manassas/Manassas Park, Richmond, Staunton/Augusta County/Waynesboro.
  • Wisconsin: State EBDM policy team, Chippewa County, La Crosse County, Marathon County, Outagamie County, Rock County, Waukesha County.

Phase VI: In September 2016, the Center received an award to continue to provide support to each of the three Phase V states as they moved to Phase VI and implemented their action plans in accordance with the Phase VI Roadmap. In Indiana, the technical assistance provided included a special focus on developing a high functioning pretrial justice system at the state and local levels.

Phase VII: In Phase VII, launched in 2018 the Center received an award to continue to provide assistance to the established Indiana and Wisconsin EBDM state and local policy teams to support and expand their EBDM efforts, including assistance to develop implementation strategies that will allow for sustainability and “scaling up.” The initiative will develop and publish a model (the “Scaling Up Monograph”) for bringing this and other similar efforts to scale, thereby providing resources to a national audience. The Center will also provide technical assistance to the state policy teams to implement their scaling up plans to additional counties in their respective states, and prepare for and conduct a national conference presentation on the sustainability and scaling efforts of NIC’s EBDM state and local teams.


In addition to the achievements described above under the various phases of the EBDM initiative, over the course of the initiative the Center developed a library of publications that support replication of EBDM in jurisdictions across the country. These products include:

  • the 4th Edition of the EBDM Framework;
  • the Evidence-Based Decision Making (EBDM) Primer;
  • the Starter Kit, which provides guidance to jurisdictions that seek to implement justice practices that are based on evidence-based decisions. The Starter Kit is intended to assist local, collaborative criminal justice teams in building their capacity to engage in EBDM by providing a roadmap to, and the critical planning steps necessary for, successful implementation of EBDM;
  • a curriculum on evidence-based decision making and the EBDM initiative;
  • a series of case studies on each of the seven EBDM sites highlighting their key activities and lessons learned;
  • a set of discipline-specific user guides; and
  • a set of discipline-specific overview of the EBDM initiative highlighting the benefits and challenges of participating in an EBDM effort, including an overview for Victim Service Providers.

A full list of publications under the EBDM initiative can be found here.

Sponsors: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance

The Encouraging Innovation: Field-Initiated (Fl) Program is funded under the Edward Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program and a carve out from the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program that is aimed at combating extraordinary or precipitous increases in crime. The FI Program furthers the Department’s mission by trying new approaches, addressing gaps in responses, building or translating research knowledge, or building capacity to address the issues that bring fresh perspectives and ideas to enhance practices and prevent crime in the field.

The Center for Effective Public Policy, in partnership with the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies (NAPSA), will utilize grant funds to develop a national “Diversion Repository.” The Repository will serve as a “one stop shop” for information about diversionary options, national practices, existing resources and new resources developed through this project. The goals of the project include (I) developing and field-testing new diversion resources to fill the gap between those currently available and those that are needed to guide future diversionary efforts; (2) building an online “Diversion Repository” to efficiently disseminate information on evidence-based diversion, including both existing and newly developed resources; and (3) conducting awareness building, discipline-specific, diversion-focused workshops at national conferences.

Sponsors: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance through a subcontract with the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies

A Center staff member will participate in the planning and execution of a Diversion Symposium for the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies.  This will include identifying organizations to participate, assisting with finalizing the Diversion Symposium goals and objectives, aiding with Symposium logistics, helping to develop the final agenda, serving as faculty during the event, assisting with developing the Diversion Symposium curriculum and selecting faculty, and developing and writing a White Paper to inform the diversion field of the major issues and points Diversion Symposium and describe next steps to advance pretrial diversion as an evidence-based decision point.

Sponsors: National Institute of Corrections

Through a cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Corrections, the Center provided ongoing technical assistance to support implementation activities to two dosage probation pilot sites (Napa  County, California and Washington County, Minnesota).

Sponsors: National Institute of Corrections

Through a cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Corrections, two jurisdictions were selected on a competitive basis to pilot test the dosage probation model, developed by the Center for Effective Public Policy in collaboration with The Carey Group. The Dosage Probation Model incentivizes offenders’ engagement in risk-reducing activities by providing the opportunity for early termination from supervision when probationers reach their dosage target and achieve objective behavioral indicators. Key elements of this approach include: adhering to the risk, need, and responsivity principles; utilizing core correctional practices and behavior change-oriented supervision (rather than solely surveillance); ensuring that offenders receive interventions and services that have been demonstrated effective in reducing recidivism; and tracking the amount of programming dosage hours and key behavioral change indicators. The Center will be responsible for providing technical assistance to policy teams, including the probation department, in two selected jurisdictions around implementation of the model and will document lessons learned in a final report at the conclusion of the project.

Sponsors: Starke County Criminal Justice Planning Board

Center staff led a team that collected information on and assess the extent to which current pretrial and sentencing options align with evidence-based practices. The Center explored the interests of Starke County stakeholders in pursuing Evidence Based Decision Making (EBDM) strategies for addressing harm reduction goals. To this end, the Center and partners conducted an analysis of the trends in jail, probation and community corrections populations; including exploration of the charge types and risk/needs’ characteristics of defendant and offender populations. The team prepared written recommendations for promising strategies to improve the array and effectiveness of sentencing options and action steps to initiate an EBDM approach; and conducted onsite visits to collect information, reviewed the draft recommendations, and conducted a half-day, strategic planning session with Starke County stakeholders to develop initial change goals or targets and action steps.

Sponsors: Wisconsin Department of Corrections

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WDOC) contracted with the Center to assist with the development and implementation of a “dosage probation” pilot project. The concept of “dosage probation” was developed collaboratively by the Center with the Milwaukee County Evidence-Based Decision Making policy team, which includes Milwaukee County justice system policymakers and their state partner, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. The project team developed a strategy for identifying a target population of probation-bound felons; provided EBP skill training for probation staff ; and supported the implementation of a best practices model of probation supervision and tracking dosage delivered to offenders in accordance with their assessed level of risk and criminogenic needs.

Sponsors: Luminosity, Inc.

Under this project, pretrial services agencies in Virginia engaged in identifying, testing, and implementing Pretrial Legal and Evidence-Based Practices (LEBP). Pretrial LEBP are interventions and practices that are consistent with the legal and constitutional rights afforded to accused persons awaiting trial and methods research have proven to be effective in reducing unnecessary detention while assuring court appearance and the safety of the community during the pretrial stage. The Center assisted Luminosity, Inc., in a project designed to test the use of release recommendation and supervision guidelines and evidence-based supervision techniques. The research study examined the effect of these guidelines on judicial decision making and release rates, as well as their effect on pretrial outcomes (court appearance and community safety rates, and release conditions compliance). The Center’s role was to provide assistance to pretrial services staff and their local external stakeholders around the implementation of these strategies.

Sponsors: National Institute of Corrections

Working with Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, under the Evidence-Based Decision Making in Local Criminal Justice Systems (EBDM) Initiative, Center staff conceptualized “dosage-based probation.” Dosage-based probation reframes probation from a fixed term of monitoring to a period of time in which interventions are measured and probation is completed when an established amount of risk and needs based dosage is achieved. Under support from NIC, this project convened a work group of federal representatives, researchers, and EBDM-involved practitioners to advise project staff on the development of a monograph on dosage-based probation, along with other foundational materials to further define this approach, including a strategic plan that outlines the activities, processes and objectives a jurisdiction should follow in order to effectively implement such an approach, and a protocol NIC could use to select jurisdictions that are best positioned to implement the dosage-based probation model.

Sponsors: Dane County, Wisconsin

The Center will provide meeting and process facilitation to Dane County, Wisconsin to assist them in identifying opportunities at each decision point in their criminal justice system for reform. The county will utilize an existing criminal justice system map recently developed to identify specific gaps and challenges in their system and potential solutions. Center staff will serve as subject matter experts on evidence-based practices and will be responsible for meeting facilitation, revising the criminal justice system map if needed, and assisting the team to navigate and plan for change.

Sponsors: Wisconsin Director of State Courts Office

A Center staff member served in advisory capacity to the Wisconsin Director of State Courts Office in the development of their 2013 Wisconsin Judicial District Training on Smart Sentencing. The training focused on effective and evidence-based sentencing practice and how those approaches can be incorporated at the local level.

Sponsors: Ohio Chief Probation Officers Association

A Center staff member delivered a day-long training on evidence-based responses to probation violations for the Ohio Probation Chiefs Association and their members. This presentation explored: current research on supervision and violations; responding to violations in the context of effective supervision and case management practices; understanding the link between violation responses and risk reduction; application of the research in the prevention and management of violations; examples of structured violations decisionmaking processes and tools; the implications for violations practice on special populations; and the implementation of quality assurance and automation in responding to violations.

Sponsors: The City University of New York on behalf of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The Center provided expertise on meeting planning, facilitation, and evidence-based research on effective interventions for justice system involved youth to the Prisoner Reentry Institute of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City, in order to plan and conduct a meeting on evaluation findings concerning the New York City Justice Corps Model. The assistance included: a review of early evaluation reports and model description, conduct of phone interviews with meeting participants, design of an agenda for a meeting with Justice Corps stakeholders (the original model designers, funders, and evaluators) regarding the implications of evaluation findings for the ongoing delivery of Justice Corps services and future evaluations of similar initiatives, and preparation of a summary report with observations and recommendations.

Sponsors: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

The Center provided support to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) in furtherance of DCJS’ efforts to implement the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) tool. Under this contract, the Center documented activities related to the implementation of the COMPAS to date; reviewed (and assisted in revising as necessary) the state’s short and long term implementation plan in order to ensure its viability; and assisted the state in determining the best course of action to sustain COMPAS implementation over time.

Sponsors: U.S. Office of Probation

Center staff developed and conducted a training on probation and evidence-based practices for staff from the U.S. Office of Probation in Kent County, Michigan.

Sponsors: Supreme Court of Ohio

Center staff developed and conducted a presentation on evidence-based practices and risk assessments for State of Ohio court personnel at a workshop on pretrial services for the Supreme Court of Ohio Judicial College.

Sponsors: Michigan Department of Corrections

Project staff provided consultation and technical assistance to the Michigan Department of Corrections in the development of guidelines for parole decision making, including the development of policies and procedures, and risk and needs assessments.

Sponsors: JEHT Foundation

The Center developed and conducted a training for five select counties in Texas (Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis) to provide teams from each jurisdiction with training and technical on evidence-based decision making, policy, and practice, and its supporting evidence. During the course of the training, the project described the operationalization of evidence-based approaches at the system, agency, and case levels, assisted each team with processing the implications of implementing evidence-based decision making, policy, and practice within their jurisdictions and assessing their readiness for the expansion and advancement of their current efforts, and facilitated the establishment of relationships and mechanisms among the teams to support intra-county collaboration.

Sponsors: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections

This project was designed to provide selected jurisdictions with technical assistance in order to allow each of them to develop outcome-based decision making and policy statements that will be implemented for the pretrial phase of their criminal justice system. The project offered selected jurisdictions an opportunity to develop an analytic, system-based approach to understanding the operation of their criminal justice system, beginning with the agencies and decision makers who participate in the pretrial portion of that system. The project drew on the lessons of a number of earlier efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections that demonstrated the critical role of the development of clear system policy to an accountable, public safety minded, and effective criminal justice system. The project operated from the assumption that decisions made at the pretrial stage, from arrest through adjudication, are critical to the entire criminal justice system, the offender, and to the community.

Sponsors: Ohio Department of Youth Services

The Ohio Department of Youth Services contracted with the Center to undertake a review of current policy and practice with respect to releasing youthful offenders from the Ohio Department of Youth Services facilities. The Center completed a quantitative analysis of data on a cohort of released youth and completed a comprehensive “mapping” of the process a youth follows from arrest through adjudication, admission, and release. In addition, the Center worked with the Department’s internal working committee to develop a set of goals for a Transition Control Board that would have statutory responsibility for release. The Center also conducted a thorough review of risk assessment technology as it is applied to youthful offenders and made recommendations for the development of a dynamic risk assessment tool to be used in the Department’s decision making process.