Criminal justice system collaboration seeks to overcome the limitations of traditional, non-systemic approaches to criminal justice problem solving and solution development by bringing together stakeholders to share information, work toward the development of common goals, and jointly create policies to support those goals. Stakeholders are defined as those who influence and have an investment in the justice system’s outcomes.
Collaboration: A Training Curriculum to Enhance the Effectiveness of Criminal Justice Teams
“Who is at the table” is likely the most important component of successful collaboration. “Stakeholders” are those who have a vested interest in justice system processes and outcomes. There are many different ways to categorize stakeholders and identify them by completing a stakeholder analysis. It is important not only to have the right organizations at the table, but also the right representatives from those organizations. Additionally, it is important to include representatives from all involved jurisdictions within the geographical areas.
Being Inclusive and Diverse
In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few, James Surowieke (2004) explains that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant they are. Larger groups are better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, and even predicting the future. While there is much debate among his critics, there is consensus that adding independent, diverse opinions to the discussion has a number of benefits. Engaging a wider group of participants, not only brings more ideas and varied perspectives to the table, but it also increases buy-in and support for the group's efforts. Diversity and inclusion are opportunities to create connections among diverse groups who might not otherwise interact and they foster an in increases awareness about system issues and responses.
Many CJCCs have recognized the need to engage a broader group of stakeholders, beyond the traditional justice system actors, to address justice system problems. Many choose to include civil rights leaders, the League of Women Voters, and faith leaders, just to name a few, to participate on the CJCC. Many, also, include those affected by the criminal justice system, e.g. family members of justice involved/returning citizens, in CJCC discussions. Members from the broader community can provide valuable input and help ensure that strategies are on target and ultimately successful.
The most effective Councils build a culture of trust, candor, and respect, none of which is possible without a culture of inclusion. CJCCs that cultivate an inclusive culture ensure that all members are encouraged to bring their perspectives, identity, and life experience to their service. An inclusive CJCC culture welcomes and celebrates differences and ensures that all members are equally engaged and invested, sharing power, and responsibility to achieve the organization’s mission and the council’s work.
CJCCs play a critical role in helping organizations understand the context in which they work and how best to prioritize resources and strategies based on that reality. An awareness of how systemic inequities have affected our society, and particularly the criminal justice system, enables the CJCC to avoid blind spots that can lead to flawed strategies. It can create powerful opportunities to deepen the council’s effectiveness, relevance, and advancement of the public good.
The insight gained from people who have experienced the system and services is invaluable. The process to include non-traditional partners at the table should be thoughtful and intentional to ensure that both traditional and non-justice partners are comfortable. It is imperative that your transition to include new stakeholders be successful the first time, so that it is a positive experience for everyone.
Examples of non-justice partners include but are not limited to:
- Justice involved individuals and their family members
- Victim Advocacy representatives
Also you can include representatives from these groups:
- Business community
- Faith community
- Health department
- Behavioral and Mental Health Providers
- NAACP Chapters
- Ensure transparency and support among existing council members if this is a new addition
- Create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere so non-traditional partners feel they have a voice at the table
- Formalize voting rights to show equity and support
When creating a CJCC, it is important to consider geographic scope. Justice system decision making is enhanced when it encompasses a representation of the complete “system” it represents. CJCCs benefit from shared geographic boundaries in the local justice system. Normally, this means a geographic area with the same boundaries as a county. Municipalities usually invest heavily in police services, and counties are more involved in court and correctional services. Thus, if a CJCC’s coverage extends to the county boundaries, it usually deals with a complete, or nearly complete, local justice system. Even in jurisdictions with many state-administered criminal justice activities, a countywide arrangement usually pulls together most locally administered functions.
This principle leads to related notions, for example, that joint city/county CJCCs are generally preferable to either single-city or county-only CJCCs. Geography is less important than the range of justice functions falling within the jurisdiction of the CJCC.
Read: Helpful Hint
A stakeholder analysis should be completed to ensure representation of all justice system stakeholders on the council. Complete representation of the justice system’s stakeholders will allow for the full understanding of the criminal justice system. Therefore, it is vital that the council includes all key stakeholders as early in the process as possible. In other words, to implement meaningful changes, you must have all those who might be involved in the potential changes your council will identify at the table from the outset. (1d: Conducting a Stakeholder Analysis | Evidence-Based Decision Making).
The following steps outline the process for conducting a stakeholder analysis:
- Brainstorm a list of all agencies, organizations, and individuals that have a “stake” in criminal justice decision making in your jurisdiction.
- Organize the list in a logical fashion (e.g., group together those with influence over particular decisions, such as arrest, pretrial, community interventions, etc.).
- Review the list. Identify those stakeholders already on the council and those who are missing.
- Consider the advantages and disadvantages of including the individuals or agencies on the list. What can they add to the team? What are the possible consequences if they are not involved?
- For each identified stakeholder, determine a possible representative.
The following are generic terms for the key decision points used in the Evidence-Based Decision Making process. You can also use these to map your system:
- Decision point map
- Arrest decisions (cite, detain, divert, treat, release)
- Pretrial status decisions (release on recognizance, release on unsecured or secured bond, release with supervision conditions, detain, respond to noncompliance, reassess supervision conditions)
- Diversion and deferred prosecution decisions
- Charging decisions (charge, dismiss)
- Plea decisions (plea terms)
- Sentencing decisions (sentence type, length, terms and conditions)
- Local and state institutional intervention decisions (security level, housing placement, behavior change interventions)
- Local and state institutional/parole release decisions (timing of release, conditions of release)
- Local and state reentry planning decisions
- Probation and parole intervention decisions (supervision level, supervision conditions, behavior change interventions)
- Community behavior change (treatment) interventions
- Noncompliance response decisions (level of response, accountability and behavior change responses)
- Jail and prison (or local and state) discharge from criminal justice system decisions (timing of discharge)
KEY DECISION MAKERS AND STAKEHOLDER GROUPS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL (Center for Effective Public Policy & Carey Group, 2017)
- Law enforcement officials
- Pretrial executives
- Victim advocates
- Defense attorneys
- Jail administrators
- Court administrators
- Probation/parole/community corrections officials
- City/county managers/commissioners
- Community representatives (e.g., civic leaders, members of faith-based organizations, service providers, justice-involved individuals)
- Behavioral health and human service representatives
Examples: The Charleston CJCC involves 12 community representatives: “Community representatives express the varied justice-related needs and concerns of Charleston County residents, gather and share community input, and provide voice and feedback from the community into the CJCC decision-making process.”
“The CJCC belongs to all residents of Charleston County. Get involved. We want to hear your input and concerns. All input is important as we move forward and work to improve our local criminal justice system,” explained Mount Pleasant Police Department Deputy Chief Stan Gragg, CJCC Chairman." (Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council 2019)
The CJCC encourages all community members to apply (via press releases, social media and direct outreach) and does not require previous experience with the criminal justice system. Community representatives include the:
- Local civil rights community
- Local Hispanic community
- Local graduate program community in related fields of study
- Local community-at-large
- One designated liaison from any other entity deemed appropriate by the Executive
- Local faith community
- Local nonprofit community
- Local healthcare community
- Local business community
- Local defense bar
- Local crime survivor community
- Previously incarcerated community (24 hours or more in the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center)
Additional Tips for Success:
- Invariably, you will overlook a potential partner along the way. Remain flexible and bring others onto the council as you move forward and as you deem it appropriate.
- If the CJCC is already sufficient in size, consider adding others the council feels strongly about such as citizens, community members, and other non-criminal justice representatives to subcommittees and working groups. This has the advantage of including others and gaining their input in structured ways, while not expanding the council to an unworkably large number.
- Typically, the CJCC will develop a lengthy list of possible members through this analysis. The key is to select members carefully to ensure that the team is not overly large or unworkable. Remember to consider two key factors when selecting council members: (1) their position and influence with their peers and the larger community; and (2) their openness to ideas and to new ways of looking at old problems. (1d: Conducting a Stakeholder Analysis | Evidence-Based Decision Making)