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National Criminal Justice Reform Project

NCJRP’s theory of change: 


  • A governor’s commitment to reforming the state’s criminal justice system creates the mandate necessary for transformational change;  

  • To be effective, reforms must be data-driven and evidence-based; and  

  • To be enduring, reform efforts must bolster the state administering agency’s capacity to use data to inform policy and promote wider adoption of evidence-based practices by program staff charged with implementing them.  


The effort was implemented in phases, with Phases I and II focused on planning and selecting a proposed evidence based practice, Phase III focused on the initial implementation of the evidence-based practice, formative evaluation planning and fidelity work, and developing an outcome evaluation plan and Phase IV on implementation of the outcome evaluation.

Behind Phase I and II: Kick-Off Summit in Denver


In October 2016, the NCJRP team hosted a National Strategic Planning and Leadership Summit to introduce the project to 20 states, facilitate interaction with criminal justice reform experts, and present the NCJRP’s theory of change.  


The summit featured presentations and interactive sessions on the state of criminal justice reform; the definition of evidence-based; and the concepts and principles of statewide comprehensive strategic planning, the importance of data collection and analysis and requirements for sustainability. Subject matter experts hosted breakout sessions to encourage a dialogue about what states could accomplish in NCJRP’s focus areas and the status of the current research. The agenda also included multiple opportunities for states to meet and begin their own planning efforts.


Prior to the summit, NCJRP conducted a survey of Criminal Justice Policy Advisors (CJPAs), State Administering Agencies (SAAs) and practitioners and developed profiles for all of the participating states to help determine their priority focus areas. Issue briefs summarizing evidence-based policies and programs in each reform area were distributed at the summit.

Summit Agenda Denver NCJRP Phase 1.png

Selection of States: Round 1 and 2


Two rounds of competitive solicitations for state participation were released in November 2016 and in February 2017. The second round was designed to give states with newly elected governors an opportunity to participate in the project. In total, 11 states applied applications and five were subsequently selected: Arizona, Illinois, Oregon Delaware, and Vermont. Leveraging their governor’s commitment, the reform effort in each state was led by the governor’s CJPA and SAA director. CJPAs are designated by each state’s governor’s office and oversee the governor’s criminal justice policy portfolio. SAA directors are designated by the governor and are responsible for comprehensive criminal justice planning and policy development. 


In early 2017, the NCJRP staff began guiding each of the states through a data-driven strategic planning process designed to identify the state’s priorities for policy, practice, or programmatic reforms. Each state underwent a process of analyzing how to address existing political barriers and resource gaps. Central to this planning process was establishing NCJRP executive level advisory committees reflecting key stakeholders involved in the reform areas to manage the strategic planning and reform process and establishing or strengthening institutional partnerships between the state and universities or third-party entities for short-and long-term evaluation efforts. The NCJRP staff and consultants provided training and technical assistance throughout the process which culminated in the development of comprehensive recommendations in each state for implementation in Phase III.  


Phase I & II

1. Empower an Executive Policy Advisory Committee to   Manage the Strategic Planning and Reform Process

2. Undergo a Strategic Planning Process

3. Develop Recommendations and a Plan for Reform Efforts Phase III

Phase III:

4. Identify, Implement, and Evaluate Evidence-Based Programs, Policies, and Practices

5. Assess the Effectiveness of the Reforms

In May 2019, four of the five Phase states—Arizona, Delaware, Oregon and Vermont were selected to move forward in Phase III.  

View the work done in Arizona, Delaware, Oregon, and Vermont

Illinois did not continue into Phase III consideration because its focus on improving and establishing Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils (CJCCs) did not have a direct link to Arnold Ventures priorities.

During Phases I and II, the Illinois NCJRP team and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority engaged five counties to develop and enhance their planning efforts through CJCCs. With technical support from the state, including data analysis and guidance in the strategic planning process, this initiative supported local jurisdictions in their efforts to target their specific crime problems by encouraging the use of data to identify problems and evidenced-based programming to address those problems.


Phase III: Next Steps


During Phase III of NCJRP, the states received subawards to hire a project manager and assemble the NCJRP state project teams as well as contract with a university or research partner to develop the following: 


  • A data infrastructure and integration plan that describes the state’s infrastructure to support rigorous planning, implementation, and evaluation and integration capacity-building efforts

  • A formative evaluation for the specific policy, practice, or program changes implemented and the intended focus for summative outcome evaluation to be pursued in Phase IV.

  • An outcome evaluation plan specifying each policy change, practice, or program to be evaluated, the theory of change underlying each, the research design that will be used in each study, and the relevant variables that will be studied and specific data sources used to support the evaluation.

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