The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Massachusetts

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Massachusetts

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


In Massachusetts in March 2012, the Special Commission to Study the Commonwealth’s Criminal Justice System sought technical assistance from Results First to lower prison and court-related spending and use the savings to reduce crime, strengthen public safety, and fund other budget priorities. This work eventually expanded beyond the commission’s initial scope to support program assessment and budget development efforts in community corrections.  

Similarly, in 2017, the Special Commission on Behavioral Health Promotion and Upstream Prevention (known as Promote-Prevent) requested Results First’s assistance to identify and assess effective, evidence-based prevention and early intervention services funded through the Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health (DMH).

Implementation and Findings

Adult Criminal Justice

Results First worked with the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), with additional support from analysts from major public safety offices including the departments of Correction (DOC) and Youth Services, Massachusetts Parole Board, Massachusetts Probation Service, Massachusetts Sentencing Commission, and the Executive Office for Administration and Finance. EOPSS completed a comprehensive recidivism study, presented its methods and initial findings to the commission in October 2013, and published a final analysis in August 2014. EOPSS initiated several changes to policy and budget processes, including:

  • Educating policymakers on the high cost of recidivism.
  • Expanding participation in effective but underutilized programs. The DOC identified re-entry programs—projected to be highly effective and cost-beneficial—that were not operating at capacity and made administrative changes to increase enrollment.
  • Securing federal government resources for programming and evaluation.

Using Results First analysis to fortify its grant applications, the Executive Office of the Trial Court secured substantial federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Bureau of Justice Assistance to support the commonwealth’s efforts to expand and evaluate drug court programming and better coordinate behavioral health services at the community level. Building on the commission’s engagement, the Executive Office of the Trial Court requested in June 2018 that Results First continue to support its efforts to assess program funding primarily administered by the Office of Community Corrections (OCC). In September 2019, the OCC published the findings from its comprehensive review of programs operated by its staff and community providers at 15 community corrections centers throughout the state. The OCC used the Results First Clearinghouse Database to assess the evidence base of current programs and select effective ones for future implementation. The office also added language to several requests for proposals that encourages contractors to use evidence-based, manualized curricula for cognitive behavioral therapy programming.

Behavioral Health

Promote-Prevent sought to identify effective, evidence-based approaches to curb the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. Results First worked with DMH and the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) to take stock of publicly funded programs within the commission’s scope, match those programs to the evidence base, and estimate the returns on investment they might produce. The analyses of both departments were included in the commission’s final report to the Legislature, published in April 2018. Acting on their Results First findings, BSAS and DMH made some changes to their programs, including:

  • Expanding funding for programs based on favorable cost-benefit ratios and evidence of effectiveness.
  • Phasing out programs with low cost-benefit ratios or no evidence of effectiveness and replacing them with more favorable models.
  • Incorporating evidence standards into their requests for responses when seeking vendors to provide services.
  • Using the Results First Clearinghouse Database to scan for effective programs for future implementation.

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