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.

Phase II: Logic Models and Presenting State Plans

Arizona's Plan to Reduce Recidivism

View system blueprint | View state plan

In an effort to address the state’s three-year recidivism rate of approximately 40 percent, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey initiated a recidivism reduction breakthrough project in the fall of 2016. As part of that group’s activities, Arizona applied for a technical assistance grant from the National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP), a joint effort between the National Governors Association (NGA) and National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA). The purpose of this grant was to further integrate data-driven best practices and processes into our efforts to improve our reentry process and reduce offender recidivism and to address mental health and substance use disorders in the justice-involved population.

Arizona was chosen as one of five states to receive this technical assistance grant. It has worked extensively with the NGA/NCJA support team since January to implement a framework and guide our state’s efforts to address these critical issues. The efforts of the National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP) Team have been aligned to further the goals of the Recidivism Reduction Breakthrough Project. The NCJRP Team decided to focus initial efforts on Arizona’s offender reentry process as the best opportunity for data-driven, best practice-based improvements that would hopefully lead to a reduction in the recidivism rates.

As a result, the NCJRP team engaged in a strategic planning process that analyzed Arizona’s reentry process for inmates exiting state correctional facilities. This process helped to identify specific gaps to address by state agencies; restructuring the Advisory Committee into the “Core Team” and associated sub-groups identified to address specific gaps identified in the reentry process; the creation of a Future State Map (Attachment I) that identifies what our reentry system should look like as we initiate the necessary reforms to improve our process and fill the identified gaps (Attachment II); and identified a methodology to implement an initial Time to Failure Study (Attachment III) to gage if the reforms implemented are reducing Arizona’s recidivism rate.

Delaware's Strategic Plan to Improve the Prisoner Reentry Process

View system blueprint | View state plan

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.”

Illinois's State Plan for Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils

View state plan

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.

Oregon's Plan to Improve its Pretrial Justice System

View system blueprint | View state plan

Oregon requested/received a National Criminal Justice Reform Project technical assistance grant to engage in planning for pretrial justice reform in Oregon. A pretrial workgroup was created for this purpose. This state plan/report report describes the results of the workgroup planning efforts and provides a path forward for Oregon pretrial justice reform. It also discusses the background of the problem, describes the Pretrial Workgroup activities to date, and includes a list of opportunities to improve the Oregon pretrial justice system. The state plan was presented to Governor Brown at the conclusion of 2017. The report was vetted by Oregon’s Public Safety Task Force when they began their work in January 2018 and established a process to implement the plan for Oregon pretrial reform.

Vermont's Plan to Improve its Pretrial Justice System

 View state plan

The State of Vermont seeks to improve the state’s pretrial justice system through state and local collaboration to increase public safety, improve access to substance use and mental health disorder treatment, strengthen data integration between law enforcement and public health, protect the constitutional and statutory rights of defendants, and protect the statutory rights of victims. As part of the National Criminal Justice Reform Project, Vermont established the Vermont Pretrial Advisory Committee to oversee this work.

Additional Resources

The NCJA Center for Justice Planning, in cooperation with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, hosted a series of webinars on a variety of topics to help participants learn from experts and stay connected to trends and practices at all levels of government. Below are webinar descriptions and supporting materials for this series.

Implementing Evidence Based Practices and Services with Fidelity

View webinar | Download slides | Download transcript

Although crime control policy and program development processes are increasingly being informed by scientific evidence, identifying and adopting what works is only part of what’s needed to realize positive outcomes. Evidence-based programs and practices (EBPs) still have to be implemented with fidelity and integrity in order to be successful. Unfortunately, implementation is not an easy task. Implementation science, however, can help practitioners tackle implementation challenges so the promise of EBPs can be more fully realized. This webinar describes three common approaches for being evidence-based and the inherent implementation challenges associated with each. It demonstrates the importance and difficulty of sound implementation using real world examples, and describes key lessons learned from implementation science that practitioners can use across a range of settings to deliver EBPs with greater fidelity, thereby improving outcomes.

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.