2017 OJCP Award Recipients
Below are the Outstanding Criminal Justice Program award winners for 2017. Click below to view more information about:
Northeast Region: Free Minds Book Club
Southern Region: Georgia Juvenile Justice Incentive Grants
Midwestern Region: High Risk Revocation Reduction Program
Western Region: Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office’s Community Police Unification Program
Free Minds Book Club
The Free Minds Book Club in Washington, DC encourages incarcerated youth and adults to see their own potential and become part of a supportive community through creative expression, literacy education, job readiness and violence prevention outreach. The program lowers recidivism while increasing employment, positive social interactions, literacy, and self-confidence.
Begun 15 years ago the Free Minds Book Club’s initial aim was to provide support to youth incarcerated in adult prisons, a population which sometimes lacked basic educational programming. Such youth are at a critical period of development, when they can choose to either self-identify as a criminal or to change their lives. Weekly book clubs allow them to see themselves as valuable members of a community, with the potential to change. The program has since expanded to include adults as well.
The program is divided into the three phases: the Jail Book Club (JBC), the Prison Book Club (PBC), and the Reentry Book Club (RBC). The JBC serves 16 and 17-year-old boys incarcerated in the DC Jail, as well as adults studying for their high school equivalency degrees. Members select and read a book and discuss it together. They are then encouraged to write their own stories through poetry. The PBC serves members 18 and older housed in federal prisons by sending them books, letters, postcards and the Free Mind newsletter which features writing by Free Minds members as well as offering members’ feedback on their own writing. The RBC serves members released from jail or prison through book clubs; writing workshops, job readiness and personal skill-building apprenticeships; paid shifts at local businesses; personalized connections to jobs, schools and other programs; and opportunities to give back to the community through a violence prevention outreach program called On the Same Page.
In 2016, only 5 percent of RBC members re-offended within the calendar year and 76 percent obtained employment, enrolled in school, or participated in vocational programs that will lead to employment. In addition, 68 percent participated in On the Same Page to give back to the community. For the JBC, 89 percent of the members engaged with the group and demonstrated positive group interactions and increased communication skills. For the PBC, 91 percent of members opt continue receiving services once they are transferred to federal prisons and Free Minds Staff sent over 2,000 books to members in prisons across the country.
Funding for the Free Minds Book Club comes from a variety of sources. About half of its funding currently comes from private foundations, and a fourth comes from local government. The remainder of the funding comes from individual donors, in-kind donations, earned income, corporations and events.
Georgia Juvenile Justice Incentive Grants
Georgia’s Juvenile Justice Incentive Grants (JJIG) allocate state and federal resources for effective community-based programs as alternatives to out-of-home placements for juvenile offenders. By reserving out-of-home placements for serious, high-risk offenders and reinvesting savings into community evidence-based programs, Georgia is able to increase public safety, reduce recidivism and promote positive relationships between youth, their families and their community.
Youth eligible for the JJIG must have a delinquent adjudication and score moderate- to high-risk on Georgia’s Pre-Disposition Risk Assessment. Grantee courts selected to implement the JJIG must commit to using evidence-based programs (EBPs) and objective tools to inform key decisions throughout the judicial process. Currently, JJIG sites can select from six EBPs: Aggression Replacement Training, Brief Strategic Family Therapy, Functional Family Therapy, Multisystemic Therapy, Seven Challenges and Thinking for a Change.
In 2012, Governor Nathan Deal charged Georgia’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform with studying the juvenile justice system. The ensuing report found approximately 95 percent of youth in Georgia’s secure juvenile facilities were in long-term placements and nearly two-thirds of the budget for the Department of Juvenile Justice (GDJJ) was used to operate out-of-home facilities, at a cost of more than $90,000 per bed per year. Despite these expenditures, over half of the youth in the juvenile justice system were re-adjudicated delinquent or convicted of a criminal offense within three years of release. Per the recommendations of the report, following the 2013 legislative session, Governor Deal signed into law House Bill 242, landmark legislation to improve Georgia’s juvenile justice system. At that time, Governor Deal and the General Assembly appropriated resources to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) for the purpose of creating the JJIG program.
The JJIG program was implemented in late 2013 and provided 29 juvenile courts spanning 49 counties with grants to implement EBPs. Today the JJIG serves counties housing over 60 percent of the at-risk population. All other Georgia counties are eligible for EBPs through the GDJJ.
Since the JJIG was implemented, Georgia has reduced out-of-home placements by over 50 percent in Incentive Grant recipient counties compared to the 2012 baseline. During the first year of the JJIG, 1,122 youth were served through EBPs, and by the third year, the number had increased to 1,723 youth, for a total of 4,511 youth served in those three years. In addition, the overall graduation rate for youth in the JJIG program was 62 percent, with some EBPs seeing rates up to 85 percent.
The JJIG was initially funded in 2013, with a $5 million appropriation from the state and approximately $1 million in federal funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Currently, the JJIG program receives $8.2 million (88 percent) of its funding from the state, with the remaining $1 million (12 percent) of its funding from Title II funding administered by OJJDP.
High Risk Revocation Reduction Program
The High Risk Revocation Reduction (HRRR) Program in the Minnesota Department of Corrections works to reduce recidivism among adult males who are at high risk of release violations through the use of evidence-based practices. The program also targets men who have violated their supervised release conditions but have not yet returned to prison. By reducing readmissions the program also works to control Minnesota prison populations.
Incarcerated men identified as high-risk release violators (RVs) begin receiving services 60 days prior to release and are provided with supplemental case planning for six months to one year after release. Specially designated facility case managers work with the RVs and their community supervision agents to identify resources and other reentry services. These case managers are responsible for developing a case plan that includes Small, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals based upon a risk and needs assessment. In addition, upon release RVs have access to community hubs staffed by full time resource navigators who connect them to both information and resources including social support, housing, employment, cognitive-based life skills programming, mentoring, transportation assistance, and access to chemical dependency assessments and treatment.
Begun in 2011, the HRRR program was designed to specifically help adult male release violators to reduce recidivism. Research has shown that males account for a much larger proportion of the Minnesota state prison population and are more likely to go back to prison for violating their release conditions. Furthermore, typically RVs do not receive many services upon their return to prison. Since they are held on average six months, administrators can be reluctant to provide limited resources and services to men or women who will not be incarcerated very long and who have recently failed under supervision.
A randomized controlled trial showed that participation in HRRR significantly lowered the risk of supervised release revocations and reconvictions by 28 percent and 43 percent, respectively. In addition, the analysis also showed that employment assistance, including subsidized employment was effective at reducing recidivism. Further research has also shown that reentry programs that begin in prison and continues in the community are more effective at reducing recidivism.
HRRR was initially funded by the Second Chance Act Adult Demonstration Grant in 2010. After the grant funding was exhausted in 2015, the Department of Corrections and community partners successfully lobbied for new funds to continue the program. In 2016, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated funding to replicate and increase the program’s capacity. This funding provides 100 percent of the direct costs of contracted services and full-time staff. The MNDOC also provides staff supervision, contracting and financial management, and service coordination of the program to replicate and expand the HRRR program, now also known as Opportunity 4 Change (O4C).
Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office’s Community Police Unification Program
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office’s Community Police Unification (CPU) Program works to foster positive relationships between the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the communities it serves. The Program provides an opportunity for community members to resolve complaints of discourtesy and biased-policing through face-to-face conversations, facilitated by impartial volunteer mediators from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Dispute Resolution Program (LACA DRP).
As part of the program, select biased policing and discourtesy complaints go through mediation instead of the traditional investigation procedure. The LAPD Internal Affairs Division identifies complaints that are suitable for mediation. Complaints are not considered eligible if they involve additional allegations of serious or criminal misconduct, an arrest, or allegations of an ethnic remark. For eligible complaints, the LAPD Program Coordinator will reach out to the accused officer(s) and the complainant(s) to offer mediation as a possible solution. Since mediation is voluntary, either party can opt out of the mediation and choose to go through a standard investigation instead. Details of the complaint and areas of concern are laid out as part of a Responsivity Tool and are used to guide the mediation, which is conducted by community volunteers. Volunteer mediators receive 40 hours of training in mediation and facilitation skills. After the mediation is complete, participants complete a survey to evaluate the Program’s effectiveness. Officers who participate in the mediation process can have the complaint re-categorized within their personnel files. For community members, a constructive conversation with the officer with whom they had a negative encounter can in many instances address their concern.
Launched as a three-year pilot program in 2014, as a collaboration between the City Attorney’s Office and the LAPD, it was originally called the Biased Policing Complaint Mediation Program. Based on the success of the pilot, the Board of Police Commissioners permanently adopted the program as part of the LAPD’s discipline system and its name was changed to “Community Police Unification Program” to better reflect the program’s goals and mission.
The CPU Program was initially funded with a $100,000 micro-grant from the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program and the city general fund provided staff resources. Currently, 77 percent of the program’s funding comes from the city’s General Fund and 23 percent comes from a COPS Grant. Other city agencies are also interested in the program, which could lead to an increase in General Fund support.
An evaluation of the pilot program found that both officers and complainants were highly satisfied and confident with the process. From January 2014-December 2016, 708 complaints were referred to the program and 363 were determined eligible. Satisfaction surveys from those who followed through with mediation found that 83 percent were either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the process and 91 percent thought the outcome was “completely fair” or “somewhat fair.” In addition, 86 percent indicated they would recommend the mediation process to others.