Outstanding Criminal Justice Awards
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- Event Calendar
- The National Forum
- 2013 Regional Meetings
Outstanding Criminal Justice Program Awards: Past Winners
Each year the National Criminal Justice Association recognizes outstanding criminal justice programs that showcase successful promising practices in criminal justice. The programs selected all address important criminal justice issues; demonstrate effectiveness based upon the programs stated goals; are a good example of the use of federal funds to initiate a program that is subsequently supported through state and local appropriations or are self sustaining; and can be easily replicated in other jurisdictions.
Click below to learn more about past award winners.
- Northeast Region: DC Youth Link
- Southern Region: Operation Drawbridge
- Midwestern Region: Chemical Health and Justice Sanctions, La Crosse County Human Services
- Western Region: Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative
- Tribal Winner: New Mexico Tribal-State Judicial Consortium
- Northeast Region: Kennebec’s Restorative Community Harvest (Inmate Garden)
- Southern Region: Project Reentry
- Midwestern Region: St. Leonard's Ministries
- Western Region: Yellowstone County Jail-Based Treatment Program
- Tribal Winner: Cass County/Itasca County/Leech Lake Tribal Court Wellness Program
- Northeast Region: PA Mental Health and Justice Advisory Committee and the PA Mental Health and Justice Center of Excellence
- Southern Region: The KY Department of Public Advocacy Alternative Sentencing Social Worker Program
- Midwestern Region: The Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program
- Western Region: El Paso County (CO) Reintegration and Recovery Program and the Community Detoxification Program
- Tribal Winner: Alaska Traditional Justice Systems
DC Youth Link
DC YouthLink is a coalition of community-based organizations that works with the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) to provide a diverse array of support services to youth committed to DYRS as they reintegrate into their communities. The program offers services to help rehabilitate court involved youth in a community setting. DC YouthLink has three main objectives: 1) to advance the rehabilitation of DYRS youth by connecting them to services, support, and resources in order to help them succeed in a community setting 2) to enhance public safety by promoting DYRS youths’ rehabilitation through structured activities and enhanced supervision and 3) to invest in and build upon the strengths of community-based organizations to create safe, strong environments that support youth who live there. In order to foster a community-based system, DYRS partners with two organizations, East of the River Clergy-Policy Community Partnership and the Progressive Life Center. These organizations partner with service providers in their respective communities. In 2012, DC YouthLink established a request for proposals system (RFP) to create a formalized process for adding partner organizations, allowing for outside reviewers to choose the best providers.
DC YouthLink has led to dramatic improvements in both public safety and individual youth outcomes. DYRS youth are now less likely to be re-arrested, less likely to abscond, and more likely to be engaged in structured, positive activities. The re-arrest rate of youth connected to DC YouthLink fell 7 percent between FY11 and FY12, from 27 percent to 20 percent. Reconviction rates also fell from 16 percent in the second two quarters of 2011 to 10 percent in 2012. At the same time that young people are experiencing these public safety outcomes, they are also connected to more positive services and achieving more important milestones. Between 2009 and 2012, four-hundred and nineteen youth are enrolled in job readiness programs, 387 received educational services, and 310 enrolled in behavioral services. On average, each youth involved in the program was engaged in 4.3 hours of services each week. Since the inception of DC YouthLink, fifty-four community organizations in DC have helped young people succeed through their participation in DC YouthLink.
Kennebec’s Restorative Community Harvest (Inmate Garden)
The Kennebec’s Restorative Community Harvest project provides meaningful agricultural skills to inmates while providing fresh produce for those in need in Kennebec County, Maine and the surrounding area who might not otherwise have access. The project also provides inmates with the hands on training, skills, and the work ethic needed to ensure successful crop production and the opportunity to make a valuable contribution back to their community.
Established 17 years ago, the Inmate Garden was originally designed to cut down on the cost of feeding prisoners at the County jail. Over the years, the focus of the program has shifted from cost savings to training inmates in a marketable trade and teaching them skills such as patience and perseverance that can be transferred to employment opportunities once they are released. Kennebec’s Restorative Community Harvest is a programs driven operation that strives to modify selfdestructive behavior. Many of the inmates involved have drug or alcohol Northeast Kennebec’s Restorative Community Harvest (Inmate Garden) dependency issues, and the program offers them alternative methods for dealing with stresses that are inherent in everyday life. Through the program, inmates have the opportunity to experience the fulfillment that comes with seeing a project through to completion. In addition, giving back to the community to whom they have caused harm serves as an important aspect of the restorative justice process for both the perpetrator and the community at large.
The program employs approximately 50 inmates who prepare soil, plant crops, tend the gardens and harvest the produce on 11 acres of land across the county. The produce is then donated to food pantries, soup kitchens, Meals on Wheels kitchens, and elderly housing complexes. In 2011, the program grew and harvested 62,000 pounds of fresh vegetables. This produce was distributed throughout central Maine. The projects goal for 2012 is to increase its’ production to 75,000 pounds of fresh produce.
Pennsylvania Mental Health and Justice Advisory Committee and the Pennsylvania Mental Health and Justice Center of Excellence
The Mental Health and Justice Advisory Committee (MHJAC) and The Pennsylvania Mental Health and Justice Center of Excellence (CoE) were created to assist in reducing justice involvement for people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders by providing technical assistance, guidance, information, and structure.
Since its establishment in November 2009, the CoE serves to promote evidence based strategies that support the sustainability and best practices for the criminal justice and mental health populations. They have also provided vital resources, information, technical assistance, and conducted systems-level mappings to counties seeking to change their policies regarding the diversion of individuals with mental illness and substance abuse from standard criminal prosecution. The CoE has developed and maintained a comprehensive website with vital information to the criminal justice/mental health communities. The CoE is guided by the Mental Health and Justice Advisory Committee which provides structure to ensure that Pennsylvania’s criminal justice/mental health activities are coordinated across the state and to ensure counties receive the guidance and support necessary to implement effective responses.
The collaboration between the CoE and the MHJAC has benefited not only mental health clients but has also promoted public safety by identifying appropriate intervention. They have provided technical training and information that have ensured the success of integrating and intercepting justice involved persons with mental health issues in the justice system.
Operation Drawbridge uses events driven surveillance to dramatically increase the effective use of detection technology and provide real time monitoring of border areas not regularly monitored by law enforcement. Managed by the Texas Department of Public Safety Border Security Operations Center, Operation Drawbridge provides safety and security to rural landowners who live along the Texas-Mexico border, while also apprehending drug smugglers and human traffickers to enhance overall public safety. Operation Drawbridge places small remote cameras along the 1,200 mile long border shared between Texas and Mexico, which are monitored around the clock by several agencies including the U.S. Border Patrol, Texas Parks and Wildlife Division and the Texas Border Security Operations Center via a secure website. The U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and local Sheriff’s Offices also place the cameras on detected trails in order to maximize the utility of the surveillance. At a cost of $350, each camera has been modified to obtain true infrared flashes outside of human range and monitors criminal activity using motion detection, zero noise emission, extended battery life and low light capability to provide real-time monitoring of areas that may not otherwise be accessible to law enforcement. Images containing suspicious activity are “flagged” alerting the appropriate law enforcement entity and GPS coordinates and a photo of the activity are transmitted.
Operation Drawbridge began in January 2012; the project was initially funded by a Byrne Justice Assistance Grant from the Criminal Justice Division of the Governor’s Office. The majority of current grant funding comes from the Texas Governor’s Office; additional grant funding is also given through the Texas Department of Agriculture. The Department of Public Safety developed the monitoring software and funds the cameras, cell service and batteries and handles the majority of the monitoring responsibilities. The Border Patrol and Sheriff’s Offices are responsible for deploying the cameras, organizing responses to flagged images, and reporting the disposition of their alerts.
As of June 30, 2013, approximately 750 cameras have been successfully deployed resulting in the apprehension of over 14,000 individuals and the seizure of over 33 tons of narcotics, as well as 12 southbound assault rifles.
Project Reentry was established in response to North Carolina’s growing problems of prison overcrowding and offender recidivism. Project Reentry assists ex-offenders with avoiding potential pitfalls associated with life after incarceration. The mission of the program is to improve the reintegration of ex-offenders, reduce criminal justice costs, and increase public safety. These goals are met through a pre- and post- release transitional services system that coordinates with the NC Department of Public Safety, Project Safe Neighborhood networks, law enforcement, employers, vocational/educational providers, health/human service agencies, faith based ministries, and community organizations and volunteers.
Project Reentry’s comprehensive program features three distinct components: a 13-week pre-release curriculum model, a long-term post-release services continuum, and a “PSN Inside Notification” component for targeted inmates. Project Reentry begins working with inmates prior to release through a structured, group-based curriculum. In addition to providing valuable information and education, pre-release sessions allow Project Reentry staff to build trust and familiarity with inmates as they to begin to think beyond the prison walls, overcome emotional barriers, and learn to build healthy human connections. Post release services include career development classes and training; relapse and mental health counseling; transportation, housing and support services; faith-based mentoring and family reunification. The PSN Inside Notification component is based on the High Point Notification model, but it targets the inmate population rather than probationers. The Notification session includes an initial warning similar to that used in the High Point model, then staff explains positive alternatives and encourages participants to attend the next 13 week Project Reentry cycle.
Since 2003, Project Reentry has served 869 participants in pre-to-post release programming with a recidivism rate of 11.2 percent. In addition, of the 2,913 participants in post-release only programming, only 18 percent have returned to prison.
The Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy Alternative Sentencing Social Worker Program
The Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy Alternative Sentencing Social Worker Program provides social worker services to indigent criminal defendants who are represented by Kentucky’s public defenders. These social workers develop plans that provide personalized rehabilitative support s that address pivotal aspects of their life such as addiction, physical health, mental health, housing, education, employment, family and other issues to improve the client’s successful function in the community and reduce recidivism.
These social workers are dedicated to developing alternative sentencing plans that assist the client in avoiding re-incarceration and help with a successful, complete, and safe re-integration into their communities upon sentencing by the trail judge. One social worker will carry a caseload involving 20-30 cases at any given time with a desired goal of serving 70 defendants per year. Their caseloads include a mix of juvenile court, family court, misdemeanor court, and felony cases involving mental health and substance abuse issues.
With the assistance of the Kentucky General Assembly and various grants the 12 current social workers have saved the state of Kentucky $100,000 each in incarceration costs and successfully decreased the recidivism rate. The DPA alternative sentencing social worker program is widely supported by prosecutors and judges and has been praised for its accomplishments by notable state court judges such as Judge William E. Lane, 21st Judicial Circuit, Judge Lisa Paynes Jones, Daviess District Court, Division 1, and Judge John P. Chappell, 27th Judicial District, Division 2.
Chemical Health and Justice Sanctions (CHJS), La Crosse County Human Services
Chemical Health and Justice Sanctions (CHJS) encompasses screening, assessment, evidence-based services, and supervision for pre-trial clients, Drug Treatment Court, OWI (Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated) Treatment Court and sentenced clients. The goal of the program is find smarter cost-effective ways to reduce the jail population without decreasing public safety and to implement evidence-based alternatives and programs that reduce recidivism. Services include cognitive-behavioral treatment, random drug and alcohol testing, electronic monitoring, employment services, and gender-specific programming.
The Chemical Health and Justice Sanctions program is funded by La Crosse County with additional grants used for start-up programs. Upon completion of the grants, all of the projects have continued using local funds. Currently, an evaluation of the OWI Treatment Court is being conducted with funding from the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance.
Since implementing the Chemical Health and Justice Sanctions program, La Crosse County has reduced its jail population from an average daily population of 297 inmates in 2001 to 194 in 2012, while the average daily population for people involved in the CHJS program in 2012 was 272 people. In addition, CHJS participants accounted for 80,469 total bed days in 2011 compared with 63,084 bed days in the La Crosse County jail. The cost per day for someone in the CHJS program is less than $23 per day, while it cost approximately $100 per day to incarcerate someone in the La Crosse County Jail. In 2011, the budget for the CHJS program was just $1.8 million compared to over $6.3 million for the county jail.
However, the most significant achievement of the CHJS program is its ability to maintain the success of its program, allowing for continual support from the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors and the Circuit Court Judges during difficult economic times. CHJS shows that using evidence-based cost-effective measures can reduce jail populations and recidivism.
St. Leonard’s Ministries
St. Leonard’s Ministries (SLM) provides a holistic setting through which formerly incarcerated men and women can successfully reenter the community and rebuild their lives. Programs offered include short and long term housing, comprehensive case management, employment development programs, educational opportunities and a variety of support services.
St. Leonard’s provides two channels for reentry services: residential and educational. The residential services include: St. Leonard’s House (SLH), a shared living space for 40 men, which provides intensive outpatient addictions treatment, anger management, job training, educational services and family reunification counseling; Grace House, a shared living space for 18 women, with a special emphasis on family reunification and addressing sexual/domestic/ psychological abuse; and St. Andrew’s Court, 42 units of second stage housing for men who successfully complete the SLH program.
In addition, the Michael Barlow Center, serves formerly incarcerated individuals from the broader community with programs and services designed to better situate them in the work force and help with employment. Services include everything from basic literacy tutoring to a high school diploma and the availability of college courses on site. Green building maintenance and culinary skills classes are also available throughout the year. In addition, a Job Developer and a Retention Counselor are on staff to help individuals find employment and stay employed, long term.
The annual recidivism rate for SLH participants is 20 percent compared to over 51 percent for the general population of Illinois. The Grace House recidivism rate is even lower at closer to 5 percent. In addition, SLM’s success has led to an agreement with the Chicago Housing Authority to house stage two Grace House graduates and a Dept. of Justice grant to fund a second Job Developer position at the Barlow Center.
The Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program
The Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization of the Greater Twin Cities’ Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program provides mentors to children who face the difficult challenges of having a parent or influential family member incarcerated.
Established in 2003, the program primarily concentrates on building child-mentor relationships that help exemplify a positive role model to influence and enhance the child’s future. The program utilizes best practices techniques which are designed to develop life skills that decrease the child’s probability of their own engagement and incarceration with the justice system. Following the standards listed by the BBBS’ proven mentoring model, there are strict procedures for screening mentors and providing match support involving the child-mentor pairs to ensure child safety and growth.
There are approximately 15,000 children in Minnesota who have an incarcerated parent. Through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, private resources, and state support through the Byrne JAG program, The Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program now has 3,250 of these children enrolled in their program. Over a 12 month period, the children of this organization have shown improvements in self-confidence, academic performance, relationships with their peers, and most importantly shown improvements in their ability to avoid delinquency.
This program has successfully transformed the lives of countless children who struggle with having incarcerated parents through positive life experiences.
Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative
The Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative employs a multi-systemic approach to reduce misuse of prescription medication and the associated health and crime-related consequences. The program is currently underway in three pilot counties (i.e., Yavapai, Pinal, Graham/Greenlee) and includes five main strategies: 1) reduce illicit acquisition and diversion of prescription medications; 2) educate prescribers and pharmacists about best practices for controlled substances; 3) enhance prescription drug practice and policies in law enforcement; 4) increase public awareness about the risks of prescription drug misuse; and 5) build resilience in children and adults. Once feasibility and efficacy are established, the plan is to replicate the program statewide.
The Initiative was designed to leverage state and local infrastructure and receives no appropriated funding. A major component of the Initiative is the partnership between local community coalitions, the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC), the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth, and Families, the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy and DrugFreeAZ. The agencies provide in-kind support, and the community coalitions obtain buy-in, time and services from local members, stakeholders and businesses. The initial costs of program oversight and evaluation were absorbed by ACJC, with a small grant from the Governor’s Office supporting a staff position and assisting the pilot counties with printed materials, media, and training costs.
Thus far, enrollment in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) has collectively increased across the three counties for prescribers (44%), pharmacists (130%) and law enforcement (103%). Placement of 29 permanent drop boxes throughout the three counties has resulted in approximately 500lbs of unused medication collected each month. Numerous trainings have been held in each pilot site for law enforcement, prescribers and pharmacists. Thus far, 808 adults and 7,751 youth have received a research-based curriculum (Rx360) that raises awareness about the risks of prescription drug misuse and promotes proper storage and disposal of medication. The curriculum efforts have been complimented by numerous community events and media coverage that are estimated to have reached over 300,000 people across the three counties.
Yellowstone County Jail-Based Treatment Program
The Yellowstone County Jail-Based Treatment Program is a partnership between the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office and the Rimrock Foundation, Montana’s oldest and most comprehensive treatment center. The goal of the YCJBTP is to demonstrate the efficacy of quality intensive treatment and community supervision by collaborating with three adult drug courts to reduce the demand for jail beds, days of incarceration, and reduce the involvement of substance abusers in the criminal justice system. Since its inception in 2006 the program has shown a reduction of substance abuse addiction rates by participants and reduced recidivism rates.
The program was established to address severe the overcrowding in the Yellowstone County jail. It is the only model in the country that links discharging jail-based clients to a drug court for a step down. Offenders are treated for a minimum of three months while incarcerated and upon discharge step down into the intensive outpatient programs of the drug court. The offender agrees in advance of entering the jail-based program to be inducted into one of the three Billings drug courts upon discharge. This permits the client to receive community supervisions and all of the drug court services as they re-integrate into the community.
The program includes extensive case management both in the jail-based program and throughout the drug court portion. This includes life skills training and building skills to obtain or improve employment. The program also offers sober transitional housing to participants upon release for a nominal fee.
In addition to boasting an impressively low 7.3 percent recidivism rate, 2010 statistics also showed that 90 percent of participants were employed one year after release and 100 percent had found stable housing.
El Paso County (CO) Reintegration and Recovery Program and the Community Detoxification Program
The El Paso County Reintegration and Recovery Program and Community Detoxification Program are designed to address the issues of criminal recidivism and substance abuse through proactive and reactive comprehensive programs.
Due an increased capacity in jail population and rising percentage of repeat offenders, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) developed the EPSO Reintegration/ Recovery program in 2007 and the El Paso County Community Detoxification Facility in 2009. The Reintegration/Recovery program’s primary goal is to reduce recidivism by providing a multi-systemic program offering education, life skills, and therapy through interactive classes and counseling. The El Paso County Community Detoxification Facility is the only detoxification program in Colorado managed under the jurisdiction of a County Sheriff’s Office. The top priority of the Detoxification Center is to proactively work to keep those with substance abuse issues out of the criminal justice system and local hospitals. The center also focuses on the reduction of substance abuse in El Paso County through rehabilitation programs, effective care, and treatment. Clients are provided with safe housing and care for withdrawal, appropriate medical care, and assessments.
The EPSO Reintegration/Recovery Program has effectively operated for three years and has reduced the recidivism rate to 25 percent among its population of 1,888 participants. Overall the recidivism rate in El Paso County has experienced a significant reduction from 71.33 percent to 67.75 percent in 2008. It has reached the lowest rate yet of 59 percent in 2009 and early indications shows a distinct correlation between the program and the reduction in the recidivism rate. The Detoxification facility has treated 6,166 clients.
New Mexico Tribal-State Judicial Consortium
The New Mexico Tribal-State Judicial Consortium was founded in 1998 by the New Mexico Supreme Court and the Colorado-New Mexico Indian Court Judges Association “to improve awareness and develop information . . . about the different judicial and legal systems in place in the State and in the various Tribes and Pueblos.” In 2006, the Consortium was formally recognized as one of the Supreme Court’s advisory committees. It is one of the longest lasting tribal-state court forums in the country with equal representation split between tribal and state court judges. Its mission focuses on improving efforts against domestic violence, law enforcement, and jurisdictional issues. The Consortium has improved awareness and strengthened relationships between tribal and state judiciaries producing positive outcomes like cooperative agreements and procedures for managing multi-jurisdictional cases. One important goal of the Consortium has been to achieve greater fairness in the treatment of native and non-native defendants and victims in state courts.
Currently funded through the New Mexico Legislature general funds, the Consortium was begun with help from the Court Improvement Project basic grant, and supplemented by a Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) grant. The Consortium’s State funding is used to help tribal court judges with travel expenses for regular meetings, and also provides scholarships for conferences.
The most significant benefit of the Consortium is the development of relationships and communication. This benefit is demonstrated through both the state and tribal judges’ endorsement of the program, as well as through the consistent and productive meetings. Judges report that because of the meetings, they form relationships that are useful for discussing difficult cases that arise. On average, 15 out of the 22 Tribal Courts have been attending New Mexico’s annual Judicial Conclave via Tribal Scholarships since 2007. In addition, several Regional Meetings were conducted through BJA funding which increased tribal and state education about each other’s judicial systems. In those events, participants discovered common problems and identified potential solutions regarding particular topics, such as domestic violence protection orders, implementation of SORNA, and the rights of incarcerated parents of Indian children.
Cass County/ Itasca County/Leech Lake Tribal Court Wellness Program
The Cass County/Itasca County/Leech Lake Tribal Court Wellness Program is a joint jurisdiction court that addresses the problem of chronic alcohol and drug offenders. The program is based on the National Drug Court model and uses the 10 key components of drug courts. The program offers an alternative to incarceration in an attempt to turn chronic drug and alcohol offenders who are not otherwise criminally oriented into productive and useful citizens. This is done through a treatment program, follow-up on the treatment program, support groups, and court supervision.
Participants are required to attend court on a biweekly basis during the course of their time in the program, complete treatment and aftercare, become employed, and complete a community service project.
At the time of the Wellness Court’s establishment in 2006, Cass County was one of the deadliest counties in the state of Minnesota with an extremely high recidivism rate for chronic alcohol offenders. Because Cass County encompasses a large part of the Leech Lake Reservation, the District Court joined with tribal court leaders to combine resources to address the chronic alcohol and drug offenders within the joint jurisdiction of these courts.
To date the Wellness Court has provided treatment and services to 56 participants. There have been 26 successful graduates and currently there are 23 active participants in the program. The Wellness Court has helped 14 participants obtain a valid license during the program as well as continue their education, find employment, and obtain healthy living environments.
Alaska Traditional Justice Systems
The Alaska Traditional Justice System applies pre-contact indigenous processes to reduce crime in Indian Country.
Alaska Native villages and Indian Country have the highest rates of domestic violence, criminal victimization and suicide in the nation. Yet adults today in most remote Eskimo villages can remember a time when there was no crime in their village. Most of these communities still do not have state court systems or police. The Alaska Traditional Justice System is a 2-part seminar that reinstates traditional justice systems which do not require the support of western police or courts. An initial training session explains how pre-contact justice systems utilize values instead of written laws as a legitimate system of governance. A follow-up session provides technical assistance to address specific community crimes, threats or problems with traditional solutions from the community’s own elders.
This training is based on two assumptions: (a) the high crime rates and suicide rates in Indian Country are symptoms of cultural destruction; and (b) cultural trauma is exacerbated by the application of western legal system values to Native communities holding traditional values. The trainer bases his work on 20 years of legal and personal experiences in over 50 Alaska Native villages.
Since establishment in the fall of 2010, with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, onsite trainings have occurred in the remote Alaska villages of Kongiganak, Kipnuk, Gambell, Savoonga, Newtok, and Hooper Bay. General training sessions have occurred in Bethel, Alaska, and Albuquerque, NM.