The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Santa Clara County

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Santa Clara 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.


In August 2016, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to partner with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. Leaders committed to use the Results First approach to better understand the evidence behind the county’s adult criminal justice programs and predict the potential return on investment from these programs and alternatives. In the county’s letter of invitation, Board President Dave Cortese described the partnership as a demonstration “of our commitment to expand the use of evidence-based practices to better serve clients both in custody and in the community.”


The County Executive’s Office, with support from the Probation Department, managed the county’s Results First efforts and coordinated with other criminal justice stakeholders. These included the Sheriff’s Office, Superior Court, Reentry Services, district attorney, public defender, and Behavioral Health and Custody Health Services.

Policy impact

In June 2018, the County Executive’s Office published a report summarizing the effectiveness and return on investment expected for the adult criminal justice programs. The report contained six recommendations based on its analysis and lessons learned. To execute these recommendations, the county convened a task force made up of representatives from the various public safety and justice agencies. The Probation Department has taken the lead on piloting solutions that the task force is exploring, such as defining “evidence-based program” in contracts and requiring vendors applying for funding to demonstrate how their proposed program will achieve desired client outcomes.

Santa Clara’s Behavioral Health Services Department also decided to use Results First tools to assess the evidence base behind its adult outpatient mental health services.

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