The drive to improve evidence-based criminal justice practices in the states is getting a new boost from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which will help five states intensively work on several key justice areas.
The Houston-based foundation is giving $2.4 million to two national organizations that represent state governments, the National Criminal Justice Association and the National Governors Association, to take part in the first phase of “in-depth planning and implementation assistance” over the next several years.
As many as 20 teams assembled by governors’ offices will explore “key areas of reform” this fall in the areas of pretrial reform, re-entry and offender recidivism, mental health and substance abuse, reducing incarceration, and information-sharing and integration of evidence-based practices across the justice system.
Based on the results of those discussions, five states will be selected for more detailed work in the coming years. The states may choose to work in as many of the specified reform areas as they wish.
The new project may end up overlapping with the “justice reinvestment” program being promoted by the U.S. Justice Department and Pew Charitable Trusts in 27 states. Justice reinvestment aims to “manage and allocate criminal justice populations in a more cost-effective manner, and reinvest savings in strategies that can hold offenders accountable, decrease crime, and strengthen neighborhoods.”
Some other state-based organizations already are working in areas covered by the Arnold initiative. Last week, the Council on State Governments and other groups convened a national summit on the issue of how to better handle the many mentally ill people who find themselves in the justice system. (The Crime Report described that effort last week.)
The Arnold-funded effort differs from justice reinvestment by having state governors take the lead in proposing reforms and not have them suggested by outside entities.
A primary goal of the project is to encourage “data-driven strategic planning for the long run,” said Cabell Cropper, executive director of the Washington, D.C.,-based National Criminal Justice Association, which is taking the lead along with the governors’ organization.
The new project does not cover all major criminal justice functions. Policing is not included, primarily because it is mostly a local government function.
Last week, the Arnold Foundation announced that Matt Alsdorf would succeed Anne Milgram directing its criminal justice program, which dates from 2011. Alsdorf has helped oversee development of the pretrial risk assessment tool that the foundation said is being used or adopted in more then 30 places.
Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of The Crime Report. He welcomes comments from readers.