National Criminal Justice Reform Project

The NCJA advocates for effective criminal justice policy and funding for justice assistance programs.

National Criminal Justice Reform Project

The National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP)  is a long-term technical assistance opportunity to reform criminal justice systems. A joint initiative between the National Criminal Justice Association and the National Governors Association, and funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the NCJRP is intended to support planning and implementation of data-driven, evidence-based system wide criminal justice reform in one or more of the following areas:

  • Reforming pretrial release and bail;
  • Improving the reentry process and reducing offender recidivism;
  • Addressing mental health and substance use disorders in justice-involved populations;
  • Safely reducing prison and/or jail populations; and
  • Implementing evidence-based practices, including improving access to data, and strengthening information sharing practices, adopting performance metrics and integrating evaluation.

The overarching goals of the project are to move all states toward wider adoption of evidence-based practices within criminal justice policy-making and to improve public safety by making criminal justice systems smarter, fairer and more cost-effective.

State Strategic Planning and Leadership Summit (October, 2016)

To kick off the National Criminal Justice Reform Project, a State Strategic Planning and Leadership Summit was held in Denver Colorado in October, 2016. It featured interactive sessions on the state of criminal justice reform; the definition of evidence-based practice; the concepts and principles of statewide comprehensive strategic planning; the importance of data collection and analysis and requirements for sustainability. Subject matter experts engaged participants in a dialogue about what states can accomplish in these five areas of policy and what the current research says. The agenda also include multiple opportunities for states to meet as teams to discuss and begin planning efforts in their own state.

The agenda and presentations from this event are available on our NCJP website.

State Selection for Training and Technical Assistance (December, 2016)

In December, 2016, the National Criminal Justice Reform Project selected the first three states to receive specialized technical assistance in the aforementioned policy areas: Arizona, Illinois and Oregon. Through the project, each state’s criminal justice policy advisor and criminal justice administering agency will lead teams of policymakers and key stakeholders to embed a strategic planning process for advancing and sustaining reforms within the state’s executive branch. That process will enable executive branch agencies to address priorities, enhance decision-making and achieve system-wide improvements in areas where governors can drive change.

Two additional states - Delaware and Vermont - were selected in March, 2017 following a second-round RFA to participate in the NCJRP. Both states will address mental health and substance use disorders for justice involved individuals and implement evidence-based practices. The Delaware initiative will focus on the reentry process and reducing offender recidivism. Vermont will focus on reforming pretrial release and the bail system.

Teams of policymakers and key stakeholders led by the state’s criminal justice policy advisor and the state’s criminal justice administering agency will work to embed a strategic planning process for advancing and sustaining reforms within the state’s executive branch. This process will enable executive branch agencies to address priorities, enhance decision-making and achieve system-wide improvements in areas where governors can drive change.

All-State Convening (November, 2017)

Download the agendaparticipants list, and slideshow presentations from this event.

On November 15, 2017, representatives from the five states involved in the National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP) met in Washington, DC to share an overview of the work underway in their state and their progress toward addressing the areas of reform. 

During the all-state convening, leaders from Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Oregon and Vermont, including the State Agency Administrators (SAAs) and Governor’s Criminal Justice Policy Advisors (CJPAs), discussed the strategic planning process undertaken in each state, their desired area of reform, the structure of their project and how they are overcoming existing challenges.

In addition to the SAAs and CJPAs, members of the NCJRP Advisory Group provided feedback to the states and highlighted potential issues that that states should be aware of as they continue to move forward. The states were given opportunities to share ideas and discuss the types of technical assistance they would find helpful as they move forward into the implementation phase of the project.

In preparation for the next phase of NCJRP, states will will provide a list of specific implementation recommendations to their governors.

Presenting Strategic Plans to the Governor (Phase II)

The remaining states participating in the NCJRP are required to complete Phase II by the end of January, 2018.

Delaware's Strategic Plan to Improve the Prisoner Reentry Process

In mid-December 2017, Delaware presented its strategic plan to improve the prisoner reentry process to Governor John Carney. The Delaware plan was the result of eight months of intensive work as part of the National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP). Delaware was the first, of the five NCJRP states to complete and submit their strategic plan to the Governor. Christian Kervick, executive director of the Delaware Criminal Justice Council and NCJA vice-president, presented the report at the Governors Cabinet Retreat on December 14, 2017. “We received 100 percent support and buy in moving forward.” Kervick said. “To a Secretary, each pledged whatever staff, collaboration and/or available resources they had available as we proceed. All had words of encouragement.” Read more about Delaware's Strategic Plan.

Illinois's State Plan for Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils

As part of the National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP), Illinois is working to give state and local criminal justice actors the tools needed to safely reduce overuse of prisons and jails by supporting the formation of Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils (CJCCs). These councils are strategic planning bodies made up local criminal justice policymakers, practitioners, and community members that serve as a forum for collaborating on policy, programs, and operations. The 2018 state plan outlines the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority’s efforts to collaborate with CJCCs throughout the state and support collaborative criminal justice planning between levels of government.

NCJRP Advisory Group

The Advisory Group will provide guidance and expertise throughout the duration of the project, and include:

  • Tom Corbett, former governor of Pennsylvania;
  • Michael Jacobson, executive director, City University of New York Institute for State and Local Governance;
  • Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center, Urban Institute;
  • Marc Levin, policy director, Right on Crime;
  • Judge Jonathan Lippman, Latham & Watkins LLP;
  • Laurie Robinson, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University;
  • Clay Yeager, senior vice-president, Evidence Based Associates; and 
  • Ed Chung, Vice President of Criminal Justice Reform, Center for American Progress.