The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Rhode Island

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Rhode Island

This page was updated on Aug. 1, 2018, to reflect progress in the state.


In March 2013, at the request of state leadership, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative partnered with Rhode Island to establish a cost-benefit analysis methodology that would examine policies and procedures in the state’s criminal justice system. This work builds on existing requirements to develop performance measures for every state-funded program and to report regularly on progress toward established annual goals. Rhode Island leaders recognized Results First as a guided approach to assessing and understanding the long-term investment value of their publicly funded programs.


The Rhode Island Results First work is led by the state’s Office of Performance Management, housed within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which uses data to review and improve the efficiency and outcomes of government programs. The OMB oversees the development and use of the Results First approach, including statewide inventories of programs implemented by agencies and the state-specific cost-benefit model. OMB staff members work with agency leaders and personnel to assess currently funded programs and produce return-on-investment projections to inform future program decisions.


The OMB published comprehensive inventories of state-funded adult criminal justice and juvenile justice programs in March 2014. The team then released a 2015 report comparing the costs associated with adult and juvenile recidivism with the relatively high costs of providing programs in the state. By comparing programs’ expected recidivism reduction with per-participant costs, the analysis ranked programs by cost-effectiveness and identified ways to improve value. The report makes several recommendations to address cost-effectiveness, such as increasing the number of participants to reduce per-participant program costs, collaborating across departments to reduce duplication of efforts, and reviewing contract terms with providers.

In May 2016, the OMB released a report summarizing its findings after conducting cost-benefit analysis on 11 evidence-based programs in operation in state prisons or for individuals on probation or parole. Ten programs demonstrated a positive return on investment. Based on these results, the report announced an increased focus of state resources on evidence-based programs and highlighted specific recommendations for cost-beneficial programs in the governor’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, including $2.5 million for medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder in state prisons.  

The OMB released a 2017 report summarizing its work with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families and the Department of Health to inventory and assess the state’s investments in child welfare programming. The state administers 11 evidence-based programs that are shown to be effective or promising. OMB staff conducted cost-benefit analysis on six of these programs, two of which were projected to produce positive returns on investment. Using these results, OMB made several recommendations, including that the state invest in additional evidence-based programs and that programs be regularly reviewed to ensure that they are being implemented as designed.

Next steps

The Rhode Island Department of Health will continue a partnership that began in 2016 to inventory programs for five general health topic areas. The OMB will also continue to use the Results First model to influence program budget decisions in adult criminal justice and child welfare and expand program inventory and cost-benefit analysis work in additional policy areas as selected by the governor’s office.

Learn more about our state work.