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.