Staffing a CJCC
Having dedicated staff who work solely on the CJCC's jointly agreed-upon initiatives in a neutral and objective manner can be one of the most important assets to ensure the productivity of a CJCC. As noted in the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Guidelines for Staffing a Local CJCC, (2012), CJCC staff work for each decision maker and their organizations equally and in ways that have the potential to assist each organization in better fulfilling its mission and self-managing limited resources. They do this in a way that maintains systemic balance across the entire justice system. Members rely on CJCC staff to perform activities such as meeting facilitation, research and analysis, project management, and distribution of information.
The Guidelines for Staffing a Local CJCC resource was developed to help jurisdictions improve their planning and coordination abilities and to aid technical assistance providers who assist local jurisdictions with this function. This resource provides many useful and time-tested techniques for a establishing a criminal justice planning function and for improving existing planning functions.
Perception of CJCC Staff
In 2019, the Justice Management Institute (JMI) conducted a study (of 43 local CJCCs across 22 states and the District of Columbia) to better understand the structure and nature of the CJCCs and provide “useful feedback to local councils about how members perceive the capacity and function of their council.” JMI also gathered data on the role of the CJCC director and surveyed respondents to provide some insight into how CJCCs perceive the importance and expected role of CJCC staff.
Overwhelmingly, CJCC members reported that the CJCC director/coordinator:
- is an important position in our criminal justice systems
- brings useful ideas to the criminal justice system
- is expected to engage stakeholders to implement changes to the criminal justice system,
- is expected to provide beneficial research, information, and data to CJCC members that assist them in making decisions
And lastly, CJCC members expect the individual in the CJCC director/coordinator position to remain impartial and act in the interest of the system as a whole.
The need for impartial and unbiased staff is of the utmost importance for building and maintaining trust within a CJCC. This can be difficult depending on where staff is located, who is paying for staff salary, and who the staff reports to. It is important to consider this fact when making those three decisions.
The CJCC staff should be characterized by credibility, neutrality, and stability. Credibility with justice agencies and local government officials comes with demonstrated competence and neutrality and from the legitimacy associated with formal authorization to serve in an interagency and interjurisdictional role. Neutrality must be conscientiously practiced by the staff director and subordinates but can be promoted by insulating the CJCC staff from local politics (basing staffing on the merit system rather than political appointments). (Robert Cushman, Guide).
Suggested Staff Skills
While the mix of technical skills needed will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, staff members can be expected to have capabilities in four basic areas:
- Skill in collecting and analyzing data and converting raw data into useful, policy-relevant information and policy or programmatic options. This includes an emphasis on knowledge about evidence-based policies, principles, and practices.
- Practical experience in organizations and inter-organization collaboration, optimally including knowledge about and experience with justice system processes.
- Political, managerial, and administrative skills that will enable them to interact effectively with CJCC members and officials at every level in the array of justice system and general government entities that have stakes in the work of the CJCC.
- Project management skills and the ability to manage and coordinate multiple projects with multiple high-level stakeholders at one time.
Continuum for High Functioning CJCCs: Staffing
As a practical matter, many small rural jurisdictions are not likely to have the resources to enable employment of full- time staff members. In larger jurisdictions (or in multi-county consortiums formed by less populous counties), having an independent staff is both feasible and highly desirable. This chart identifies four levels of commitment and investment and staffing levels that range from volunteer staff to a team of personnel.
Regardless of the level of staffing, there are advantages and disadvantages at any point along the continuum—e.g. with a larger staff, more time is spent supervising staff, addressing personnel issues, and focusing on ensuring the appropriate infrastructure (human resources, finances, etc.), which can deter focus away from planning and analysis to address needs in the community. A CJCC with no or limited staffing means there are fewer personnel available to carry out the work of the CJCC. (CJCC Development Guide Survey Results, September 2019). The more committees and sub-committees that a CJCC may have will also dictate the workload of CJCC staff.
Funding the CJCC Staff
Some local jurisdictions pool resources from CJCC members to fund a staff position, others fund the position from the local county or municipal government revenues, and others support CJCC staff positions with federal, state, or private grant awards. Identifying local funding to support CJCC staff can often lead to contention among CJCC members. If one agency provides the funding for the CJCC staff, that agency will often feel ownership of that staff, which can lead to a perception of favoritism. That said, it can be very difficult for multiple agencies to agree to fund the position collectively. More often than not, county administration will allocate funding to support a CJCC staff position. If the CJCC bylaws include a staffing section that clearly outlines the staff’s roles and responsibilities, this can help mitigate the perception of favoritism. There are additional ways, including the use of grant money, to fund staff.
Training for CJCC Staff
It is important that CJCC staff have the support for training within their position. A broad range of skills are necessary for CJCC staff positions, from mediating disputes between high-level stakeholders to data analysis. Some skills and training may be obvious, such as Microsoft Excel courses, while others may be extremely helpful but not at the forefront of planning when staffing.
Non-traditional recommended training for staff could include the following:
- Facilitating difficult conversations
- Dispute resolution
- Project management
- Group facilitation and adult learning styles
Having a highly competent staff who are neutral and independent of any single criminal justice entity should enable the CJCC to function effectively in carrying out its roles of collecting and analyzing data, developing policy options and plans for implementing preferred options, fostering multi-agency collaboration, and assessing system performance. Improving Criminal Justice System Planning and Operations: Challenges for Local Governments and Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils