A 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling required California to resolve its overcrowded prison system. In response, Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed into law Assembly Bill 109, establishing a set of policies that are commonly referred to as Realignment. This legislation transferred responsibility for more than 60,000 low-risk inmates from the state to its 58 counties and required them to develop facilities, policies, and programs to serve this population. To help identify the most effective and cost-beneficial adult criminal justice programs, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative partnered with California counties to implement the Results First approach at the local government level.
Santa Cruz is one of the most active California counties with respect to using evidence to inform decision-making. The county has participated in numerous initiatives, such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative, George Mason University’s Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence program, and the Judicial Council of California’s California Risk Assessment Pilot Project. These efforts have helped the county consider systemwide change based on research. In October 2013, the board of supervisors unanimously approved the county’s participation in Results First and submitted a formal letter securing its commitment. Santa Cruz County is using the Results First approach to help officials select and evaluate programs to serve offenders, reduce future crime, inform budget considerations, and coordinate and bolster its portfolio of evidence-based ventures.
The Results First work is housed in the Santa Cruz Probation Department. The technical working group consists of leadership and staff from various criminal justice agencies and the County Administrative Office. In June 2014, the Santa Cruz Results First team released a progress report summarizing work accomplished to date and highlighting successes. Well before the model was completed, the process enabled the team to calculate long-term recidivism rates for the first time and to improve data sharing across criminal justice agencies. The team completed a comprehensive inventory of adult criminal justice programs and implemented the Santa Cruz model in late 2014. In February 2015, the team presented a report summarizing its findings and proposed next steps to the Santa Cruz County board of supervisors.
The team plans to use its work to make the case for maintaining and expanding treatment and intervention services throughout the criminal justice system, and to inform the county’s contract structuring process to include performance metrics. The Results First work will help the county develop new criminal justice programs, including comprehensive services at the sheriff’s planned Rehabilitation and Reentry Facility. It will also help Santa Cruz continue to target funds for evidence-based and other promising programs and invest in monitoring and evaluation.