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CJCC’s During Times of Crisis

Crisis in criminal justice can happen in many ways. This could range from a political scandal with a council member to a worldwide pandemic and everything in between. How a CJCC operates during these times can be a true test of the foundation that was built when the CJCC was created. Trust and leadership are the two most important factors in using a CJCC successfully during a crisis.


Below are some tips for a CJCC to consider when responding to crisis.

  • Decide with speed over precision.

  • Define priorities. Identify and communicate the three to five most important ones. Early in the crisis, those might include employee safety and care, financial liquidity, and operational continuity. Document the issues identified, ensure that leadership is fully aligned with them, and make course corrections as events unfold.

  • Make smart trade-offs. Instead of thinking about all possibilities, the best leaders use their priorities as a scoring mechanism to force trade-offs.

  • Name the decision makers. In your central command “war room,” establish who owns what.

  • Embrace action, and do not punish mistakes.

  • Decide what not to do. Put a hold on large initiatives and expenses, and ruthlessly prioritize. Publicize your “what not to do” choices.

  • Strengthen (or build) direct connections to the front line. In triage situations, it’s crucial to have an accurate, current picture of what is happening on the ground. (4 Behaviors That Help Leaders Manage a Crisis, n.d.)

Communication During a Crisis

Before a crisis hits, CJCCs must develop a crisis response plan, decide on a single point of contact, and establish relationships with the media. When a crisis arises, the plan can guide the response. Having one point of contact will help the CJCC control its message. Relying on longstanding relationships with media representatives can help the public understand that the CJCC plays a positive role in the community and that any crisis is an exception not the rule.

Helpful Resource:

SAMHSA public officials plan for communicating to the public and the news media, and shape the CJCC’s social media messages, by asking the following questions:

  • What information is crucial to convey in initial messages in order to prompt appropriate public responses after a crisis situation?

  • What are the messages to be delivered prior to, during, and after an incident?

  • What are the obstacles to effective communications and how can they be minimized?

  • What are the opportunities for effective communications and how can they be maximized?

  • What questions can we anticipate from the public in these risk situations?

  • What are the news media’s responsibilities and how can you help reporters meet them[AB1] ?

For more information see Communicating in a Crisis, Risk Communication Guidelines for Public Officials, published by SAMHSA, publication #PEP19-01-01-005.[i]

Many CJCCs took a leadership role in responding to the COVID-19 crisis by hosting daily briefings; creating internal electronic and telephonic communication; advocating for policies related to arrest and criminal and civil case processing; and supervision of justice-involved individuals. These actions were instrumental in increasing the CJCC’s access to community resources and services to at-risk populations as well as communicating with the local community and providing public access to information.

The District of Columbia CJCC provides a good example of communicating during a crisis involving the recent pandemic. Beginning in early March, the CJCC developed a webpage dedicated to sharing member agency COVID-19 response updates available to the public and the media on their website. The CJCC’s coordinated response pertains to the District’s criminal and juvenile justice systems agencies as well as situational updates from the Mayor. They also reported the number of cases tested and new positive cases of COVID-19 for the DC Department of Corrections to keep the public informed. See this link for more info:

The Justice Management Institute has compiled information on CJCC and Systemic Responses to COVID-19 from their network and posted the information on website here: