The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Kern County

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Kern County

This page was updated in March 2020 to note the conclusion of the county’s work with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. 

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.

Background

Since Realignment, Kern County has begun a culture shift in the way its leaders consider evidence in decision-making. In May 2014, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the county’s participation in the Results First Initiative, securing the partnership with a letter of support and invitation. The Kern County Community Corrections Partnership, chaired by the chief probation officer, devoted staff time and other resources to the development of the Kern program inventory and Results First cost-benefit model. Using these tools, officials sought to identify current investments in adult criminal justice programs and the extent to which they were evidence-based, considered alternative strategies for improving outcomes at lower costs, and shifted program funds to those that are proved to reduce recidivism.

Implementation

The work is housed within the Kern County Probation Office, where a department analyst oversees it. A technical working group comprising leadership and staff from across criminal justice agencies—including the sheriff’s office, courts, and Mental Health Department—supports the county’s Results First work. The team completed model implementation and presented its preliminary findings in May 2015. It also developed a comprehensive inventory of county-funded criminal justice programming to help the county understand the full range of services it offers, their costs, and the evidence of effectiveness for each program. The team released a formal report and presented its official findings to the Community Corrections Partnership in December 2015.

Policy impact

The Kern County project team used Results First as an organizing principle for long-term strategic planning. The sheriff’s office uses the Results First Clearinghouse Database to inform decisions about jail programming, such as replacing ineffective programs with those that are evidence-based and adding proven interventions to its treatment portfolio. In an effort to track program quality and performance to ensure the success of its investments, the county developed contracting standards for providers that incorporate performance measures and monitoring. Kern County leaders use their cost-benefit analysis and program inventory resources when developing or expanding programs.

The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) now supports California counties’ evidence-based policymaking work.

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