Making Comprehensive Systems Improvements
In addition to providing services, SCA grantees also engage in system-wide strategic planning and collaboration to examine and improve practices, build sta ff capacity, and better prioritize resources to have the greatest impact on recidivism. Unlike grants that support programming for a small subset of the population, statewide programs can empower agency administrators to impact recidivism through sustainable policy and procedural changes, cultivate their workforces, and establish their states as national models of innovation and interagency collaboration.
Executive Office of the State of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Corrections
The Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) brings together representatives from the governor’s office, state policymakers, and corrections leaders to set measurable systemwide recidivism-reduction goals and to develop practical, data-driven plans to achieve those goals. In 2015, IDOC leaders partnered with the Iowa Department of Health Services to develop strong connections between prisons, community supervision agencies, and community-based mental health and substance addiction service providers. The two agencies jointly crafted a curriculum to help corrections staff and service providers better understand the challenges faced by people reentering their communities after incarceration and to learn the language of each other’s systems and how they operate. In an effort to incorporate the goal of recidivism reduction into the day-to-day operations of its staff, the IDOC also trains officers in core correctional practices such that they take into consideration each person’s assessed risk and needs.
Training provided through Iowa’s Statewide Adult Recidivism Reduction (SRR) program has resulted in widespread adoption of data-driven practices. Staff choose to override risk and needs assessments less than 10 percent of the time, meaning that they strictly adhere to data-driven practices in the vast majority of cases.44
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice
The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has implemented a statewide reentry strategic plan aimed at improving outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system by developing a reentry and intervention manual for how best to serve youth who are incarcerated or under parole supervision in Virginia. The manual provides guidance for all staff who are involved in the assessment, treatment, transition, and reentry of youth who are or have been in DJJ facilities, including personnel involved in central admission and placement; juvenile correctional centers; the court service unit’s division of education; health services; and behavioral services and reentry units. The DJJ trained staff throughout the state on how to use the manual and is working to develop performance measures that will be used to monitor staff adherence to the manual’s policies and procedures.
Nevada Department of Corrections
The Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) has developed a statewide, cross-disciplinary strategic plan that focuses resources on education and wraparound support for people released from prison who are at the highest risk of recidivism as determined by a validated risk and needs assessment tool. The NDOC director worked with the governor to mandate that their department, the Division of Parole and Probation, and the Department of Human Services all use the same assessment when working to target the risk and needs of the reentry population. This common assessment usage enhances efficiency by fostering more timely and accurate communication between the NDOC and community-based supervision and service providers. The department also created a reentry resource guidebook for case managers and community supervision staff to consult as they serve the state’s reentry population. The guidebook lists community-based resources organized by all 17 counties in Nevada, covering needs from clothing to employment services and transportation, in addition to treatment services.
Facing a female prison incarceration rate that is 43 percent higher than the national average,45 NDOC leaders engaged consultants in 2018 to conduct the Women’s Institutional Needs and Strengths (WINS) Agency Assessment at the state’s only women’s prison. The resulting assessment report offers recommendations for the facility to enhance its implementation of evidence-based, gender-responsive practices as part of Nevada’s statewide initiative to reduce recidivism.