New York Moves to Increase Efficiency in Criminal Justice System

State prioritizes evidence-based programs in its contracts

New York Moves to Increase Efficiency in Criminal Justice System
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Since 2013, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) has shifted its portfolio of more than 100 local assistance contracts - agreements to provide services to a specific region or community - to prioritize and support evidence-based, cost-effective alternatives to incarceration. With investment in these proven approaches, the state expects to improve community safety and generate savings.

DCJS partnered in 2012 with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative to develop a cost-benefit model that would help decision-makers direct limited state resources toward effective criminal justice programming. Its first analysis showed that investments in certain evidence-based programs could reduce offender recidivism by up to 12 percent and generate substantial returns on investment. For example, the state’s investment in employment and cognitive behavioral interventions can generate upward of $4 of taxpayer benefits for each dollar spent on programming.

Armed with this information about the benefits of the range of interventions, agency leaders changed DCJS’ solicitation and contracting process to focus on long-term public safety outcomes and return on investment, rather than on compliance with contract terms and conditions. DCJS issued several new competitive grants for recidivism-reduction programs that require providers to:

  • Prioritize the use of evidence-based programs.
    Depending on the grant, providers may select an evidence-based intervention from a menu of options or must demonstrate the level of evidence supporting a proposed intervention by submitting evaluations or describing how principles of effective interventions have been incorporated into the program’s design.
  • Serve populations with the greatest need.
    Providers must use risk assessment and screening tools to identify individuals most likely to benefit from offered services, which research shows are typically those evaluated as being at high or medium risk to commit a new offense in the community.
  • Report performance data.
    DCJS requires providers to demonstrate achievement of performance goals in order to receive funding. The agency now also requires providers to submit additional data to ensure that clients are enrolled in evidence-based or effective programs that best address their needs.
  • Monitor program implementation.
    Providers must submit to regular checks to ensure that services are delivered with fidelity to their model, meaning that the programs they are providing are consistent with their original designs. Agency staff provides technical assistance to help providers correct issues identified during the reviews.

The revised procurement process now serves as a key mechanism for promoting a more efficient and effective criminal justice system. “The beauty of this approach is that it is very open and transparent. Everything that we fund must meet a high standard, and providers receive the tools they need to meet that standard. There are no surprises,” said Commissioner Michael C. Green. “Equally important is the human side to this work. We want to use our resources in a way that gives people the best possible chance to break the cycle of recidivism and improve their lives.”

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This brief is one in a series about the five key components of evidence-based policymaking as identified in ‘Evidence-Based Policymaking: Government,’ a 2014 report.