New York’s work to fund effective, cost-efficient alternatives to incarceration programs garners national attention from Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative
New York State has been recognized as a leader in promoting smart, cost-effective and evidence-based policy making. The state’s work to identify and fund criminal justice programs that are both effective in reducing recidivism and cost-efficient in using taxpayer dollars is the subject of a case study recently published by the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative.
The Results First Initiative works with states and municipalities to develop the tools policy makers need to identify and fund effective programs that yield high returns on investment. As part of Results First, Pew-MacArthur identifies promising work done by participating states and shares those best practices through case studies and issues briefs so others can benefit from the experience. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) coordinates New York’s participation in the initiative.
DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, “Throughout his tenure, Governor Cuomo has worked tirelessly to make state government more effective, efficient and responsive. This Results First work is just one example of how DCJS helps advance those goals. Through this initiative, we help ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and provide training and technical assistance to service providers to help them implement programs proven to reduce recidivism, which means less crime, fewer victims and a safer New York for all residents.”
The case study, titled “New York’s Investment in Evidence-Based Policymaking,” showcases how the Division of Criminal Justice Services used Results First to persuade policy makers and budget officials to continue providing funding to local alternatives to incarceration programs after federal stimulus funds expired.
The agency developed a cost-benefit model to identify effective, cost-efficient programs and awarded more than $5.1 million in state grants, about two-thirds of which went to programs slated to lose federal funding. The new state funds allowed those programs to continue to offer community-based interventions designed to reduce local jail usage and avoid costs associated with keeping an offender incarcerated. In addition to providing grants to programs that were losing their federal funding, the state also funded nearly two dozen new alternatives to incarceration programs during New York’s 2012-13 fiscal year.
By the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year, New York will have used the Results First model to aid in the allocation of more than $50 million to programs, which provide job readiness and employment assistance services and interventions designed to change thinking and criminal behavior. These types of programs are projected to return between $2 and $4 for every dollar invested.
In addition to funding these promising evidence-based programs, DCJS is providing training and technical assistance to programs to ensure they operate as intended, achieve better outcomes and comply with stricter performance monitoring standards.
Under the new standards, programs must provide additional data and information to DCJS so the agency can conduct evaluations of participants’ recidivism and programs’ results. From the earliest stages of the funding application process, programs were notified of the state’s new requirement that they utilize evidence-supported strategies to reduce recidivism and the use of incarceration. They were also informed of the technical assistance available to help them meet the new requirements.
As Commissioner Green notes in the case study: “The beauty of this approach is that it is very open and transparent. Everything that we fund must meet a high standard and providers receive the tools they need to meet that standard. There are no surprises. Equally important is the human side to this work. We want to use our resources in a way that gives people the best possible chance to break the cycle of recidivism and improve their lives.”
Through Results First, DCJS also created a business model for criminal justice decision making, which outlines how the agency is moving forward with funding decisions: analyze population and program needs; recommend programming through cost-benefit analysis; implement programming; verify program quality (fidelity); evaluate program outcomes; confirm that results are as expected; and use results to inform future funding decisions. All told, DCJS administers more than $200 million in state and federal grant funds supporting all facets of the state’s criminal justice system.
Also featured in the Pew-MacArthur case study is New York’s leveraging of its Results First work to secure a $12 million “Pay for Success” grant from the federal Department of Labor. New York was one of only two states to receive these federal funds which are being used to train and employ individuals after they are released from state prison.
Anthony Annucci, acting commissioner of the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, explained in the case study that his agency wants “to use a proven methodology and translate data into a ‘dollars and cents’ message that the general public can understand. At the end of the day, we have to know what we are funding and what results we can expect from that investment.”
The Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.