So what does an evidence based approach to criminal justice reform look like?

The Justice Center of the Council of State Governments (USA) has an interesting project that is working to  improving mainstream criminal justice systems.

The Justice Centre of the Council of State Governments project – The County Justice and Behavioral Health Improvement Project  is a national initiative that uses qualitative and quantitative research to improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses in county criminal justice systems throughout the US.  There are a number of pilot sites.

This project is an interesting example of the Therapeutic Jurisprudence approach of linking behavioural science knowledge into the design of the law and application of the law to maximise therapeutic outcomes and minimise anti-therapeutic outcomes. Read more about TJ approach to law and legal system reform here and here.

Recent work of Justice Centre project in Salt Lake County included extensive data analysis coupled with over 50 in-person interviews with stakeholders in Salt Lake County’s justice and behavioral health systems.  This process led to a report with a range of recommendations to improve outcomes for people involved with the county’s criminal justice system, particular those with behavioral health disorders including:

  • improved identification through better screening and assessment;
  • screening and assessment to be used to match people’s risk and needs with services and supports;
  • interventions at each point in the system (law enforcement, pre-trial, court, community supervision, jail and re-entry);
  • improvement of community-based treatment and supervision;
  • implementation of the recommendations with ongoing evaluation to track progress.

This type of approach looks at various points across the criminal justice continuum (from law enforcement, pre-trial, court, community supervision, jail, and post release/re-etnry) and identifies therapeutic alternatives at each of these points of possible intervention.  This is an approach articulated in the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM).  Read more about TJ and the SIM in our previous blog.

If you are interested in therapeutic alternatives in the criminal justice system you may also be interested a recent report of the Victorian Ombudsman (Victoria, Australia) reported in a previous blog.

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