Jan | Feb 2014




Stated Briefly

Midwestern Lawmakers Discuss ‘Economic Reinvention’

Nearly 500 participants gathered this summer in Cleveland for the Midwestern Legislative Conference’s Annual Meeting, where they heard from top policy experts and shared ideas on how to address the policy challenges facing the region. The theme of this year’s conference was “Economic Reinvention,” which is the focus of Ohio Rep. Armond Budish’s agenda as chair of the MLC. Attendees approved 11 policy resolutions—available online—on topics ranging from agricultural and energy policy to international trade.
 

What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, the Urban Institute, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance in May unveiled the What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse at the third annual Second Chance Act training conference in Washington, D.C.
Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance through the Second Chance Act and hosted on the National Reentry Resource Center website, the What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse offers easy, online access to important research on the effectiveness of a wide variety of re-entry programs and practices. It provides a user-friendly, Web-based, one-stop shop for practitioners and service providers seeking guidance on evidence-based re-entry interventions, as well as an invaluable resource for researchers and others interested in re-entry.
The Clearinghouse was created to help re-entry policymakers and practitioners identify and evaluate evidence-based practices and to determine which practices might be appropriate to integrate into their re-entry efforts.
“The Clearinghouse will help to highlight effective programs for reducing recidivism, while also pointing to some of the gaps in research that demand further evaluation,” said Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute.
Beginning with a kickoff meeting in the spring of 2010 convened by the Justice Center, the Urban Institute and John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Prisoner Reentry Institute, more than 50 nationally recognized researchers and experts in the criminal justice and re-entry fields met to provide guidance on the project’s objectives, scope, methodology, study inclusion criteria and website design and structure, among other aspects of the project.
Urban Institute researchers then developed the criteria for identifying and classifying research according to the outcomes measured in each study, the strength of these findings, and the rigor of the study design. With these recommendations, Urban Institute researchers have identified and reviewed more than 2,500 studies, and have begun coding and synthesizing information to present on the site.
Information on the site comes from four topic areas—Employment, Housing, Mental Health and Brand Name Programs; additional topic areas will be added in coming months.
“What makes this project so accessible and useful is that information is organized and presented in a manner that aligns with how re-entry practitioners and policymakers are thinking about program design and practice,” said David D’Amora, director of the National Initiatives Division at the Justice Center.
Content is ordered on three levels, from broad to more detailed. Content is organized thematically around service areas, target population or program type, and information becomes more detailed on deeper exploration of the Clearinghouse. Syntheses of findings are included at every level so that users can extract key themes and considerations as they explore the Clearinghouse. Finally, users can use an advanced search function to search research by specific criteria.
To further assist users in navigating the complexity of re-entry research, the Urban Institute and Justice Center have employed a ratings system to help users identify the strength or quality of each study; studies are rated either “basic rigor” or “high rigor.” In addition, the system includes whether the study indicates the extent to which a program or practice has a beneficial or a harmful effect on recidivism and related outcomes. Specific ratings range include “strong evidence of a beneficial effect,” “modest evidence of a beneficial effect,” “no evidence of an effect,” “modest evidence of a harmful effect,” and “strong evidence of a harmful effect.” This ratings system provides a thumbnail assessment of the quality of the findings and the rigor of each evaluation.
To access this site, please visit http://nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/what_works. To learn more about the project, please visit http://nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/about-the-what-works-in-reentry-clearinghouse.
 

School Discipline Consensus Project: Supporting Schools
to Improve Students’ Engagement and Juvenile Justice Outcomes

The Council of State Governments Justice Center in December 2011 published a groundbreaking report, Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates in Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement. This report was the result of a two-year collaboration with the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University to study nearly a million public school students in Texas over a six-year period.
Building on the results of this study and report, the Justice Center is launching a national consensus-building project—The School Discipline Consensus Project—that will convene experts in school safety, behavioral health, education, juvenile justice, social services, law enforcement and child welfare, as well as youth, parents and community partners. The project will develop creative strategies for supporting student engagement and learning, and reducing poor academic outcomes and involvement with the juvenile justice system.
The 18-month project—supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education, Atlantic Philanthropies, The California Endowment and the NoVo Foundation—will focus on documenting better ways to match youth to appropriate interventions that can produce academic successes and less frequent juvenile justice involvement.
The School Discipline Consensus Project will kick off this fall and will culminate in a comprehensive report proposing guidelines and strategies for minimizing the use of suspension and expulsion to manage student behaviors, improving students’ academic outcomes, reducing their involvement in the juvenile justice system, and promoting safe and productive learning environments.
 

Western State Business Incentives

CSG West released a new report, “Trends in Western State Business Incentives,” during its annual meeting in July. The product is a collaborative effort between the CSG West Fiscal Affairs Committee and The Council of State Governments’ national office. It documents business incentives that work in the Western region’s 13 states.
Nevada Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, a 2010 Toll Fellow, chairs the CSG West Fiscal Affairs Committee .
Read the report here.
 

Western Legislators at the Alberta Legislative Assembly

The Alberta Legislative Assembly gave lawmakers and guests a first-hand look at parliamentary democracy with a Mock Legislature during the 65th CSG West annual meeting in July. The session was held at the request of the CSG West Committee on the Future of Western Legislatures.
U.S. lawmakers filled the Alberta Legislature Chamber to consider a mock bill for the fictional state of Newalta. Opposition lawmakers badgered government ministers during the legendary Oral Question Period.
Futures Committee Chair Rep. Sam Hunt of Washington, a 2005 Toll Fellow, assumed the mantle of premier, while Rep. Gary MacLaren of Montana led the official opposition. Rep. Maxine Bell of Idaho, a 2008 Toll Fellow, donned purple robes to become Newalta’s lieutenant governor and a most regal representative of the monarchy.
Alberta Legislative Assembly Speaker Gene Zwozdesky presided over the event, and other government ministers coached lawmakers on parliamentary rules of the road.

 

Fahrenkamp Award