Minnesota and 7 Counties Collaborate to Improve Correctional Services

Standardized checklist used to align interventions with evidence-based standards

Minnesota and 7 Counties Collaborate to Improve Correctional Services

When county corrections agencies in Minnesota began expanding the use of evidence-based practices about a decade ago, officials in Hennepin County’s Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCCR) saw an opportunity to improve the quality of programs statewide. In 2015, the department working with the state Department of Corrections, the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Justice Programs, and other counties—helped launch the Minnesota Correctional Program Checklist Collaborative.

The collaborative analyzes services for those in the state’s criminal justice system and assesses how well adult and juvenile services adhere to evidence-based practices using the Correctional Program Checklist (CPC) developed by the University of Cincinnati. The checklist scores programs based on four levels of adherence to evidence-based practices, focusing on measures that have been shown to correlate with reductions in recidivism. The scores range from “very high adherence” to “low adherence”; agencies use their scores along with program evaluations and outcome analyses to identify ways to improve their programs.

Hennepin County has used the checklist to assess 80 programs. DOCCR modified 16 that received lower scores to boost providers’ use of effective practices.

Members of the collaborative include government officials from seven counties and two state agencies who have conducted over 100 assessments. Together, this diverse group is working to create a consistent way to improve program quality and promote evidence-backed approaches.

For instance, in addition to conducting assessments, collaborative partners hold bimonthly learning labs to share information and lessons learned from using the checklist, provide trainings for assessors, and conduct quality assurance to ensure fidelity to CPC protocol. To build support for these practices, the collaborative has developed educational materials and presented them before several criminal justice stakeholders, including policymakers. In addition, counties such as Hennepin have built the checklist protocol into contracts with service providers.

Doing so has yielded some unexpected benefits, including stronger relationships with providers because of the enhanced understanding of the services available to those in the correctional system and the shared sense that all parties are working toward a common goal. Incorporating elements of the checklist protocol into contracts has helped DOCCR set clear expectations for outcome reporting and performance targets before programs are implemented, creating a more unified approach that ensures program success.

The collaborative has expanded its scope to look at evidence-based practices in other areas of criminal justice,  adopting two new CPC tools: the Correctional Program Checklist—Group Assessment to examine group interventions offered and the Correctional Program Checklist—Community Supervision Agency assessment, which looks at how probation agencies are incorporating these practices within their departments.

Sara Dube is a director and Mariel McLeod is an associate with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative.

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Program Assessment: Identifying what works in your state or locality

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Issue Brief

Government leaders can improve public outcomes, reduce costs, and increase accountability by ensuring that resources are directed toward effective, cost-beneficial programs. A program assessment, the first component of the larger evidence-based policymaking framework developed by the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, is a three-step process to help policymakers address key questions about their programs.