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Introduction to Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils (CJCC)

The country’s first Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) formed in the 1930s in Los Angeles, California, to address a perceived juvenile “crime wave.” CJCCs continued to develop in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s as state and local governments collaborated on how they would spend federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration funding.

What is a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council?

A Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), or similarly named criminal justice planning body, is how elected and appointed executive-level policymakers in local jurisdictions, and sometimes states, meet collaboratively to address issues facing the justice system and its member agencies. CJCCs often use a data and a structured planning process proactively to address system issues, manage limited resources, make improvements to the local criminal justice system, meaningfully address crime, and enhance public safety.

The CJCC typically involves justice leaders as well as stakeholders who are indirectly involved in or provide support services to the local criminal justice system. Its purpose is to provide leadership in policy and decision making for the criminal justice system through collaboration and partnership.

CJCCs differ from other criminal justice decision making bodies in that they are designed to be permanent, ongoing, advisory boards that not only solve specific problems as they arise, but also more comprehensively monitor and improve the system’s functioning and manage its collective workload.

Although CJCCs may look different across the country, they have many key common elements, principles, and practices. They are presented throughout this microsite.

NIC collaborated with The Justice Management Institute (JMI) and the National Network of Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils (NNCJCC) to develop these publications that present findings from a national survey of CJCC Directors and Members.

Why Establish a CJCC?

After over 30 years of working on this issue, it has been the experience of the National Institute of Corrections that a collaborative process of problem solving and criminal justice system planning is the only way to meet and overcome the challenges facing our complex and fragmented criminal justice systems. Creation of a policy team like a CJCC provides the structure to develop a collaborative response to address the issues and challenges

CJCCs are able to produce many shared benefits, including gaining a better understanding of crime and criminal justice systemwide issues, greater cooperation among agencies and units of local government, clearer objectives and priorities, more effective resource allocation, and better-quality criminal justice responses and outcomes. Through CJCCs scarce local resources can be allocated to address these issues more efficiently, effectively, and equitably.

Many jurisdictions have leveraged their CJCCs to address severe and chronic problems that require systemwide, interagency, and intergovernmental policy changes or programmatic solutions. For example, many CJCCs have planned and implemented collaborative solutions to address challenges within the criminal justice system. Some CJCCs have collaborated with other community-based service providers and behavioral health agencies to divert people away from the criminal and juvenile justice systems and to address substance use and mental health needs. Many CJCCs have implemented technology improvements, addressed digital storage issues, worked to accomplish secure data integration which supports data-driven decision making, to implement reform efforts, address community unrest and racial justice issues, and more recently to respond to the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Example/Program Highlight:

The District of Columbia’s CJCC has a “combatting violent crime” workgroup. The purpose of this workgroup is to evaluate and enhance the District of Columbia’s strategic and systemic efforts to combat violent crimes with a specific emphasis on gun crimes. One of the priority areas for the workgroup is to improve the District’s submissions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), Interstate Identification Index (III), and National Crime Information Center (NCIC). This workgroup consists of relevant local and federal partners. They focus on process level and legislative enhancements aimed at improving reporting to all three of the aforementioned entities. More recently, DC’s CJCC member agencies, also developed a coordinated response to COVID-19 pertaining to the District's criminal and juvenile justice systems. They established a web page that provides criminal and juvenile justice agency advisories on a rolling basis.

  • Example/Program Highlight

    Over the last several years, the Lucas County/City of Toledo CJCC has focused primarily on offering integrated criminal justice information systems through the Northwest Ohio Regional Information System (NORIS). NORIS was founded in 1976 to provide records automation for Toledo Municipal Court, the Toledo Police Department, and the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office. Currently, NORIS supports over 1,000 terminals in seven counties that link 2,400 users who collectively perform more than seven million transactions per month. Criminal histories are maintained on 650,000 offenders and on-line access to 92,000 active warrants is offered. NORIS has evolved into a model of systems integration across many different agencies. Similar models are successfully being deployed across Ohio and the rest of the United States. Lucas County/City of Toledo CJCC has also implemented criminal justice reforms, focused on addressing substance use and mental health needs, and has launched a community engagement effort to inform the implementation of new jail reduction initiatives, ensure that they are responsive to the needs of diverse community stakeholders, and strengthen support for the county’s criminal justice reform efforts.


Helpful resource: This video, entitled “The Value of CJCCs in Wisconsin” presents information on the benefits of establishing a CJCC.

The Need for Improved Criminal Justice Collaboration and Planning

In jurisdictions across the country, leaders from criminal justice systems are reaching out to other agencies and citizen stakeholders to collaborate on efforts to address community safety and wellbeing. Frequently locally based initiatives, state-mandated efforts and federally supported programs require collaboration for success.

A proven example of genuine collaboration grew out of the National Institute of Corrections Evidence-Based Decision Making Initiative (EBDM), which is a comprehensive and disciplined approach to using data and research to inform and guide decision making across the justice system. Genuine collaboration is the central focus of EBDM and is defined as the process of working together to achieve a common goal that is impossible to reach without the efforts of others. It seeks to overcome the limitations of traditional and non-systemic approaches to justice system problem solving by bringing together stakeholders to share information, develop common goals, and jointly create policies to support those goals—and to do so for a sustained period of time.

The strategic planning process provides a systematic way for a CJCC to express its vision, describe its values, state its mission, identify strengths and weaknesses, and develop and accomplish goals. The key to successful planning with a CJCC is a strong collaborative climate and a willingness to work across agency boundaries to achieve optimal and shared results.

Good planning at the local level results in:

  • Improved analysis of problems. Planning produces the data and analyses that elected officials and justice administrators need to improve their decision making.
  • Improved communication, cooperation, and coordination. Planning provides a mechanism for improving communication, cooperation, and coordination among police, courts, corrections, and private service agencies as well as between different levels of government and the three branches of government. Improved coordination is a result of planning.
  • Clear missions, visions, goals, and priorities. Planning permits more precise articulation of overarching purposes, and links goals, objectives, tasks, and activities in more meaningful ways.
  • More effective allocation of resources. Planning provides a framework for resource allocation decisions. It simplifies setting priorities for the use of resources to achieve justice goals and objectives.
  • Improved programs and services. Planning produces a clearer understanding of problems and needs. Planning also makes it easier to formulate goals and objectives and to evaluate and compare alternative programs and procedures.

Creating a CJCC by Mandate

A CJCC can be created as a result of a federal or state mandate. It may start with legislation requiring a planning board to approve spending decisions or litigation due to jail crowding. There may be new legislation surrounding juvenile justice that gives a county funding to address youth in the criminal justice system. Oftentimes a requirement of receiving funding is the establishment of a board or council made up of designated stakeholders to plan and prioritize spending decisions. Additionally, many CJCCs are created to address a particular problem or issue such as jail crowding. As of late, this focus has evolved and expanded beyond simply examining jail crowding to identifying individuals with mental and behavioral health needs and diverting them into appropriate services. In the last five years, over 500 planning teams, some of which are formal CJCCs, have been formed through the Stepping Up Initiative to divert people with mental illness to appropriate services. Stepping Up challenges counties and local communities to work together to find solutions that work for the local community.

Helpful Hint:

There are many ways that state mandates and specific issues can be leveraged to take local action. Planning boards and councils are not a new concept in criminal justice. Because of this, there may be several committees and councils that already exist in your jurisdiction. They may have been created for one single purpose but have many of the same people at the table. For example, there may be a human trafficking committee that meets on the first Wednesday of the month. There is a likelihood that many of the people who serve on the human trafficking committee also sit on the youth housing initiative committee that meets on the third Thursday of the month. If this is happening in your jurisdiction, this is a great place to start to create or improve a system-wide CJCC. Collaboration within these specific committees can be mirrored to include high-level stakeholders making system-wide policy and planning decisions.

Helpful Hint:

The words “unfunded mandate” are a local government’s worst nightmare.  There are many times when state legislation requires a change in local justice policy and practice but does not come with funding to make and support said change. A recent trend in “unfunded mandates” can be found in reporting requirements and data sharing. One way to address these “unfunded mandates” is to create a CJCC to leverage resources to meet these new requirements. In addition, many local governments try to stay ahead of state requirements. Having a CJCC that is proactively working on problems and implementing solutions, provides an opportunity for contributing to language when legislation is being written. This allows the CJCC to serve as the example for other communities and stay ahead of “unfunded mandates”.

CJCC’s Created or Maintained by Choice

In other situations, a CJCC may emerge to address financial demands and shortfalls or respond to community concerns. In these situations, the CJCC may emerge slowly and incrementally.

Oftentimes CJCC’s begin with one single purpose and transition into a council that makes systemwide improvements. Many CJCCs have discovered local criminal justice does not begin and end with police and corrections, following one person’s path through the criminal justice system may expose his or her involvement with several traditional criminal justice agencies as well as many other county agencies and community organizations. It is not uncommon for one person to flow through the system in several different ways and at many different times, e.g., school, police interaction, municipal court, department of human services, the Boys and Girls Club, interaction with the police, county court, community mental health services, the county employment office, police interaction, jail, the hospital, the homeless shelter, police interaction, district court, and prison. Within this one example, over 10 institutions and organizations play a role in this person’s journey through the justice system.

Additionally, many jurisdictions still do not share information between criminal justice system agencies. For example, a police officer responding to a call may not know that the suspect has a diagnosed severe mental illness. There are countless examples of where criminal justice systems work in silos, making it harder for each agency to do its job efficiently because it is unaware of critical information. Having a CJCC with the right people as members is the first step to eliminating these barriers for successful information sharing.