The Justice Reinvestment Initiative Helps Law Enforcement Keep Communities Safe
Every law enforcement agency faces a unique combination of public safety challenges, such as addressing rising violent crime rates and serving as first responders to people experiencing a mental health crisis or overdose. To respond effectively, law enforcement agencies need to collect, analyze, and utilize data in actionable ways that support strategies to prevent crime and apprehend people who commit crimes. They also need access to the latest research on evidence-based policing practices and the training to implement them.
One way states have helped law enforcement agencies tackle these challenges is through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Justice Reinvestment provides technical assistance to states to analyze data and understand key criminal justice challenges, including violent crime, substance use and mental health disorders, and high recidivism rates; develop policies and practices; and plan budgets accordingly to reduce crime and recidivism, improve responses to behavioral health challenges, and increase public safety.
The Justice Reinvestment Initiative helps states’ local law enforcement agencies tackle public safety challenges by providing resources to address
Law enforcement training needs
Date systems upgrades
People experiencing behavioral health crises
Helping Law Enforcement Respond to People in the Criminal Justice System Who Have Mental Health Disorders
Each year, an estimated 1,300 of the 7,600 people in Arkansas’s jails have serious mental health disorders, and most of those jails are not equipped to provide necessary treatment. Arkansas policymakers passed Justice Reinvestment legislation in 2017—Act 423, the Criminal Justice Efficiency and Safety Act—that required and funded Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement officers and crisis stabilization units (CSUs). This training enabled officers to take people experiencing a mental health crisis to receive treatment at facilities designed to meet their needs instead of going to jail, thereby reducing the burden on jails and law enforcement. In the two years since Act 423’s enactment,
- $6.4 million in state funding has been allocated for regional CSUs and CIT training;
- Every county and local law enforcement agency with at least 10 full-time officers has at least one officer who has received intensive CIT training, which enables them to refer people to CSUs;
- All new recruits now receive basic CIT training at the academy, and almost 1,400 veteran officers have received basic CIT training; and
- 4 CSUs serving 28 counties are fully operational.1
Funding Crime Victims’ Services
In June 2017, Louisiana enacted a bipartisan package of 10 bills aimed at protecting public safety and making better use of correctional dollars. The Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement (LCLE) is an organization that improves public safety by providing training to law enforcement, administering grant programs to benefit crime victims, and supporting coordination between criminal justice organizations. In 2018, LCLE distributed $1.7 million to
- Create a dedicated forensics server for the Louisiana Bureau of Investigations Cyber Crimes Unit;
- Improve electronic notifications for victims by developing a system that will interface with the courts;
- Supplement the Crime Victims’ Reparations Fund; and
- Establish a new Family Justice Center in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Strengthening Crime and Arrest Data Collection and Reporting
The FBI has notified local law enforcement agencies across the country that by 2021, it will only accept crime and arrest data for its Uniform Crime Reporting Program using the more thorough National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) instead of the older and limited Summary Reporting System. By collecting more detailed, meaningful, and previously uncollected data about crime and arrests, NIBRS can help local law enforcement agencies identify crime patterns and improve public safety. Policymakers and the public can use the more comprehensive data to hold law enforcement agencies accountable to the communities they serve. Massachusetts was an early adopter of NIBRS; approximately 350 agencies, representing about 84 percent of all agencies in the state, reported data to the FBI using NIBRS in 2017.2 To ensure that the rest of the state complies with the federal requirements, Senate Bill 2371, which Massachusetts enacted as part of its Justice Reinvestment effort in 2018, includes provisions requiring
- All law enforcement agencies in the state to transition to NIBRS and
- The Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to make data collected through NIBRS publicly available on its website.
Providing Law Enforcement with Tools to Reduce Violent Crime and Improve Data Collection and Reporting
Missouri enacted Justice Reinvestment legislation, House Bill 1355, in 2018 to provide funding and technical assistance to help local law enforcement agencies reduce violent crime, increase community-based treatment for people in the criminal justice system who have substance use disorders and mental illnesses, and increase support for victims, among other measures. The state developed a grant program to provide financial and technical assistance to create or improve local law enforcement pilot programs that support training opportunities, build analytical capacity and data system upgrades to NIBRS, and enhance community policing efforts. To ensure the grant program meets the needs of local law enforcement, by the end of 2019, Missouri will have
- Surveyed all police chiefs and sheriffs’ offices statewide to identify barriers to evidence-based, data-driven violent crime reduction efforts and how the state can help address them;
- Completed seven regional focus groups with sheriffs, police chiefs, and supervisors from across the state to learn more about the needs of law enforcement and identify what the grant funding can do to support their communities; and
- Provided $175,000 in initial grant funding using information gained from the survey and focus groups to support training, enhance use of data, and strengthen policing practices.
Providing Law Enforcement with Tools and Resources to Better Respond to People with Behavioral Health Needs
Through Justice Reinvestment analysis, Nevada’s Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice (ACAJ) determined that given law enforcement’s role as the first point of contact for people entering the criminal justice system, they needed additional tools and resources to better respond to people with behavioral health needs. ACAJ’s subsequent recommendations were translated into Assembly Bill (AB) 236. Enacted in June 2019, AB 236 requires
- The development of standards for CIT programs to train law enforcement officers to identify signs and symptoms of mental health disorders and provide them with skills to de-escalate situations involving people experiencing a mental health crisis;
- The establishment of a Mental Health Field Response Grant Program to encourage expansion of innovative law enforcement programs;
- Averted costs as a result of AB 236 to be calculated and funding to be prioritized for targeted areas such as behavioral health; and
- The establishment of a Justice Reinvestment local coordinating council that will allow representatives from each county to identify public safety needs and recommend grants for local initiatives, including law enforcement programs.
Funding Local Law Enforcement Agencies to Reduce Violent Crime
Oklahoma state policymakers created the Safe Oklahoma Grant Program in 2012 to fund law enforcement-led strategies to reduce violent crime as part of the state’s Justice Reinvestment legislation, House Bill 3052. The grant program provides funding to target five key areas related to violent-crime prevention: implementing evidence-based policing strategies, increasing technological capacity to support crime prevention, improving analytical capacity, engaging with community partners, and providing victim services.
- Oklahoma awarded more than $10 million to 46 local law enforcement agencies across the state between 2012 and 2018 as part of the Safe Oklahoma Grant Program.
- Oklahoma City received funding to implement proactive policing strategies and nuisance abatement activities and develop community partnerships in a high-crime target area.
- The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations reported greater reductions in crime in the target area than Oklahoma City overall between 2013 and 2016 (see table below).3
Change in Number of Violent Crimes in Target Area Compared to Oklahoma City Overall, 2013–2016
|Violent Crime Overall
Investing in Law Enforcement Efforts to Use Research-Based Policing Practices
In 2013, Oregon lawmakers passed Justice Reinvestment legislation (House Bill 3194) that created and provided initial funding for the Oregon Center for Policing Excellence (CPE) to develop and deliver training and resources that promote the use of evidence-based policing. In collaboration with the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, CPE developed the Oregon Knowledge Bank, an online resource that highlights innovative and evidence-based policing, corrections, and community supervision programs operating in the state; provides research conducted on Oregon’s criminal justice initiatives; and offers public safety agency profiles.
- The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission provided $3.46 million in the 2013–2015 biennium for the state police to spend on its crime lab and other programs and $2.5 million in the 2017–2019 biennium across seven counties to fund law enforcement and circuit courts.
- Since establishing an annual conference on problem-oriented policing in 2015, CPE has held four conferences with approximately 100 law enforcement officers and/or analyst attendees each year.
- CPE has trained newly promoted public safety supervisors and/or managers on research-informed decision-making since 2014 and public safety professionals and/or behavioral health practitioners with specialized behavioral health training since 2016.
- CPE has incorporated the Oregon Knowledge Bank into its basic police training and its leadership curriculum. The website had attracted almost 30,000 new visitors by 2017, two years after its development.4
Investing in Tools, Tactics, and Training to Increase Public Safety
In 2012, Pennsylvania enacted Justice Reinvestment legislation (Acts 122 and 196) that established the legislature’s funding priorities through a statutory formula. The formula required a portion of the money the state saved through Justice Reinvestment policy changes that reduced incarceration costs to be used to improve public safety and the quality of supervision by funding local law enforcement and county probation supervision. Five years after enacting the legislation, Pennsylvania has
- Provided almost $8.5 million in law enforcement grants for a range of projects, including law enforcement equipment and technology updates; CIT, de-escalation, and use of force training; strategies to prevent opioid overdose deaths; community outreach and relationship building; enhancements to data collection; and improvements to arrest fingerprint submissions; and
- Granted more than $5 million to county probation departments for upgrading equipment and technology; implementing risk assessments; using cognitive behavioral programs; and improving communication and information sharing with law enforcement.5
- Email correspondence between CSG Justice Center and Arkansas Governor’s Office, August 2019.
- “Crime Data Explorer,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 16, 2019 https://crime-data-explorer.fr.cloud.gov.
- Nikki Loftus, Evaluation of the Oklahoma City Safe Oklahoma Grant Program 2017 (Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, 2017).
- Email correspondence between CSG Justice Center and Oregon Center for Policing Excellence, May 2019.
- “Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Grant Funding,” Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, accessed August 8, 2019, https://www. pccd.pa.gov/Funding/Pages/Grants-App.aspx; Email correspondence between CSG Justice Center and Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, March 2018.
This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-ZB-BX-K001 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that combines the power of a membership association, representing state officials in all three branches of government, with policy and research expertise to develop strategies that increase public safety and strengthen communities. For more information about the CSG Justice Center, visit www.csgjusticecenter.org.
The Crime and Justice Institute bridges the gap between research and practice with data-driven solutions that drive bold, transformative improvements. With a reputation built over many decades for innovative thinking, a client-centered approach, and impartial analysis, CJI assists in developing effective policies, creates and supports implementation strategies, and drives positive change across the spectrum of the adult and juvenile justice systems. For more information, visit www.crj.org/cji.