The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Massachusetts

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Massachusetts

Note: This page was updated in February 2018 to reflect new developments in the state.


In March 2012, the commonwealth of Massachusetts partnered with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. With formal letters of partnership, executive and legislative branch leaders expressed their commitment to performance management and the use of data to shape policy and budget decisions. Leaders throughout the commonwealth continue to use the Results First tools and approach to identify and invest in effective evidence-based programs that are projected to produce a strong return on taxpayer investments.


Originally, the effort was coordinated by the Special Commission to Study the Commonwealth’s Criminal Justice System, which among other responsibilities, pursued technical assistance to reduce corrections spending and utilize the savings to reduce crime, strengthen public safety, and fund other budget priorities. The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, with additional support from analysts from major public safety offices including the Departments of Correction and Youth Services, Massachusetts Parole Board, Massachusetts Probation Service, the Sentencing Commission, and the Executive Department for Administration and Finance, completed a comprehensive recidivism study and presented its methods and initial findings in February 2013. The work group completed the cost-benefit model and published its findings the following fall.


After completing its criminal justice cost-benefit analysis model, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security produced several reports that highlighted a number of key findings:

  • Recognizing the high cost of recidivism in the commonwealth, Massachusetts could benefit from targeted investments in effective programs that have been shown to reduce recidivism and produce a strong return on taxpayer dollars.
  • Increasing access and participation in effective, but underutilized, programs could make a significant impact on recidivism.


  • Greater collaboration between criminal justice agencies across state government could create additional opportunities for funding effective evidence-based solutions.

Policy impact

Building on the findings identified in program inventory and cost-benefit analysis reports, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and other officials in multiple branches of government have used the Results First approach to inform a number of key policy and budget decisions including:

  • Educating policymakers on the high cost of recidivism. Massachusetts’ Results First analysis uses detailed long-term data to calculate the extent of recidivism, including incidence and severity, and associated costs borne by the state, local communities, and victims. Reporting this information gave policymakers a more complete picture of recidivism and further informed the work of the commission.
  • Expanding participation in effective but often underused programs. While collecting program information to populate the Results First model, the Department of Correction identified re-entry programs that were projected to be highly effective and cost-beneficial, but were not operating at capacity. To make better use of these programs, the department identified 250 inmates who could be moved to minimum-security facilities, increasing the number of offenders eligible to participate in effective recidivism-reduction programs. The department is also prioritizing resources for institutions with the highest need. For example, it increased the number of slots for substance abuse treatment at one of its minimum-security facilities from 50 to 135 by reassigning unused slots from other institutions. 
  • Securing federal government resources for programming and evaluation. By using Results First analysis to strengthen its applications, the trial court was able to secure substantial grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). These funding opportunities will support efforts to expand and evaluate drug court programming in the commonwealth and coordinate services at multiple Office of Community Correction Centers that offer substance abuse treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy-based programs. 

Next steps

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security leadership remains committed to this approach and will continue to use the tools it developed to inform budget and policy decisions. Results First is also supporting the trial court’s goals to improve, expand, and evaluate the programs it funds and provides in the community.

In addition to these criminal justice efforts, Results First has recently partnered with the Special Legislative Commission on Behavioral Health Promotion and Upstream Prevention in Massachusetts to support the commission’s efforts to use the Results First approach to identify opportunities for investments in effective substance abuse and mental health programs. The commission is expected to produce a report and recommendations in 2018.

Building a culture of evidence-based policymaking 
2min 39sec