The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center are excited to announce that four corrections agencies have been selected to receive an embedded data analyst through the Resident Corrections Analyst (RCA) initiative. The purpose of RCA is to place data analysts in residence at state departments of corrections to help those agencies develop their data capacity and increase the utility of data for decision-making, while also building the corrections analyst workforce.
Following its launch in May, the initiative garnered significant interest from corrections agencies across the country, resulting in many applications and a competitive selection process. In all, the CSG Justice Center received 27 applications for the 4 available placements. The overwhelming response to the call for applications indicates that this initiative and its companion program Virtual Academies for Corrections Analysts (VACA) are filling a much-needed gap in the corrections field to build the data analyst workforce and increase data analytic capacity.
The four agencies selected to receive an embedded corrections data analyst are the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDPSC), the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (WVDCR), and the Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC). The resident corrections analysts will focus on improving each agency’s data analysis capabilities through modernizing data management and reporting and expanding the existing data pipelines to deliver reporting metrics faster. CDCR, LDPSC, and WDOC will all receive the support of an embedded analyst for one year; WVDCR was selected for a short-term, 3–6 month placement.
To bolster the impact each resident data analyst has on their placement agency, the analysts will receive mentorship from CSG Justice Center research staff and partner faculty from the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety at Arizona State University. Mentorship will concentrate on data analysis and scientific computing skills to introduce new data analytic techniques to participating agencies and ensure that the data analysts’ accomplishments can be sustained after the placement period ends. Descriptions of the exciting work that will be accomplished for each agency follow.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR): Helping Policymakers Understand the Impact of Behavioral Health Needs on the Justice System
The resident corrections analyst will work in CDCR, helping the Council of Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health (CCJBH) build out the Public Health Meets Public Safety (PH/PS) framework. PH/PS helps California state leaders and policymakers use data to help reduce the number of individuals with behavioral health needs in the criminal justice system. The initiative is the first of its kind to collect and present relevant data across multiple public systems that are essential for understanding the larger picture of justice involvement.
PH/PS has identified three domains—community environment, treatment landscape, and crisis response system—for tracking and visualizing metrics, but initially had the resources to build out only one of these domains. Now, the resident analyst will work in tandem with the CCJBH team to locate, clean, and integrate relevant data for the other two domains. These analyses will then be used to help a wide range of stakeholders better understand the impact of behavioral health needs on the corrections population and develop solutions to improve system responses.
Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDPSC): Building Critical Reporting Tools for Daily Operations
The pre-classification process at LDPSC involves computing time owed and parole eligibility for felony sentences. Currently, the LDPSC’s ability to use data to drive decision-making in the pre-classification process is limited by existing data systems and processes, which are being modernized by the agency. LDPSC pulls data manually for reporting needs from an antiquated system and then undertakes a laborious process to analyze that data. As part of LDPSC’s plan to shore up these practices, the resident corrections analyst will assist LDPSC in modernizing and strengthening its data collection and reporting procedures using the new data management system being implemented.
The agency is in the process of implementing a new data system that will be able to automate metrics and provide staff with the opportunity to create user dashboards to help identify priorities, decision points, and status workflows to enhance operations. But they need extra capacity to thoughtfully create sustainable and impactful pre-classification reports. These pre-classification reports will be created by the resident analyst, who will also assist with creating a standard report format for the new system, alleviating a burden for LDPSC staff.
West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (WVDCR): Modernizing and Automating Key Leadership Reports to Drive Executive Decision-Making
WVDCR has experienced many changes since the consolidation of West Virginia’s three correctional agencies in 2018. Due to overstretched research staff, corrections leadership and staff have had difficulty keeping up their reporting mechanisms to reflect the correctional system in its entirety now that it is no longer separated into jails, prisons, and juvenile centers. The resident corrections analyst will assist the agency in modernizing and automating the process for producing monthly reporting. The analyst will also help streamline monthly data collection, administration, and site-specific reporting so that WVDCR leadership has the tools it needs to make day-to-day decisions informed by data.
Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC): Creating the Capacity for Data-Driven Decision-Making
WDOC leadership is dedicated to transitioning to a data-driven decision-making system; however, the agency’s current research shop cannot fully support it. At present, WDOC’s small research department is overwhelmed with requests for data reporting and the need to extract, clean, and synchronize data from two outdated databases. Extremely tight state budgets over recent years have limited WDOC leadership’s options to increase the agency’s data analytic capacity. RCA affords WDOC the opportunity to increase staffing in their research department and gain additional analytic tools to sustain new technology practices. The research department will be assisted by the resident analyst in developing long-term solutions to link data across systems, identify automated metrics for the department heads to periodically evaluate, and create systems for automation.
Impacting Corrections Data Capacity across the Field
The RCA initiative is part of a suite of programs formed by BJA in response to an overarching goal to help DOCs fill gaps in their analytic capacities and build a talented national workforce of corrections analysts. If you are a DOC leader looking to further increase your agency’s ability to effectively use data, RCA’s companion program, VACA, may be of interest. VACA is implementing a multi-pronged strategy to develop data analyst capacity in corrections agencies nationwide to increase informed planning and decision-making and ultimately improve the operations and safety of prisons nationally. VACA will help research directors and corrections analysts access resources on best practices and methodological standards, receive training, join a community of practitioners, and work with subject matter experts.
For more information on VACA, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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