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Justice Reinvestment, With a Community-Based Focus

The federally funded Justice Reinvestment Initiative has helped 36 states over many years to study and reform their public-safety spending priorities, using data to shift public money toward more effective strategies. Most states have focused those efforts on government agencies, from jails and prisons to problem-solving courts.

The Urban Institute this week published a video meant to draw more attention to its report last year on another approach to JRI involvement: investing in community-based crime prevention and treatment programs outside of the criminal justice system agencies.

The report focuses on 10 states' uses of JRI support to start or expand "community-based services related to safety and well-being, such as behavioral health treatment, violence prevention, victim services, and reentry support," the report states.

The 10 states are Alaska, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Utah. But those states' experiences teach lessons applicable to all states on how to rely on evidence-based approaches, foster collaboration between government agencies and community organizations, and boost existing programs or encourage new ones, through a variety of upfront or reimbursement funding mechanisms.

The 10 states in the study showed a wide variety of focuses. Some spread JRI money and expertise around to multiple types of community-based programs. Maryland, for example, included programs aimed at serving crime victims as well as diversion programs and recidivism reduction. Nebraska used JRI funds specifically for housing expansion, and South Dakota focused on boosting behavioral health care in rural areas.

"Creating and strengthening connections with community-based stakeholders early on in the JRI process can help shape a state’s overall JRI goals, including any objectives related to community capacity building," the report states. "The experiences of the 10 states in this report reveal that this is particularly relevant for two early steps of the JRI process: establishing a workgroup to facilitate planning and implementation, and engaging with stakeholders."

The report concludes, "As the examples in this report illustrate, forging strong partnerships across sectors, sharing both financial and in-kind resources with community partners, and being willing to identify and incorporate lessons learned along the way can lead to new and more holistic ways of building community safety."

The full text of the report is available here. The summary video, a narrated slide deck, is here.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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