By C. Edward Banks, Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor, Bureau of Justice Assistance
The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is a national leader in the development and implementation of criminal justice policy and sound grant management. BJA has developed many promising and evidence-based programs to address numerous criminal justice topics in order to achieve safer communities. The agency supports key areas of criminal justice, including adjudication, corrections, counter-terrorism, law enforcement, crime prevention, justice information sharing, justice and mental health, substance abuse, and tribal justice. The Bulletproof Vest Partnership, the Smart Policing Initiative, the Wrongful Conviction Review Program, and Project Safe Neighborhoods are a few examples of the more than 32 policies and programs implemented by BJA in support of local, state, and tribal justice strategies nationwide.
These programs are intended to assist criminal justice partners and to be replicable in organizations and agencies across the country. With these goals in mind, BJA wants to make sure our programs are actually working. So we asked ourselves – Are these programs effective? Are they doing what they are supposed to? How can we provide information to the field about which BJA programs could assist their unique needs?
To try to answer some of these questions, we decided to take a systematic, objective approach to determine what research and evaluations have been conducted that focused on and/or were related to BJA’s FY 2013 and FY 2014 programs and practices. The results of this “evaluation scan” were also intended to help identify programs and practices for which U.S. Department of Justice resources have played a critical role in generating innovative and sound practices.
To start this monumental task, BJA and its partner, CSR, Inc., put together a plan to examine and assess each BJA program in a systematic, reliable, and repeatable way:
- Step 1: Using keyword searches, program and process evaluations were identified and summarized for each of the 32 programs and initiatives.
- Step 2: The National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), federal websites, Google Scholar, state websites, national associations, research institutions, and training and technical assistance provider websites were searched for evaluations and other reports. This helped identify additional research and evaluation reports to add to the evaluation scan.
- Step 3: The CrimeSolutions.gov website was searched by topic area so that the scan’s summaries would include programs and practices that have already been evaluated and assessed by CrimeSolutions.gov as effective, promising, or having no effects.
- Step 4: When no evaluations on a certain program/initiative were identified, the search criteria were widened to include scholarly research (i.e., research published in scholarly journals).
- Step 5: Recent and relevant federal audits were identified and referenced.
BJA took each of its 32 programs through these steps and summarized the findings in the final report: Evaluation & Research Literature: The State of Knowledge on BJA-Funded Programs. The results of this scan are intended to help identify programs and practices with a solid foundation of evidence, as well as those that may benefit from further research and evaluation. The report includes a summary table highlighting a number of evaluations, CrimeSolutions.gov ratings of programs and practices, and other related research.
BJA knows this type of work is never really finished. While this report is very comprehensive, it is not intended to be a complete accounting of all research and evaluations completed on a certain program or initiative. BJA will continue to update this report annually (in the fall of each year) as new information is published.
To learn more about BJA’s process or to read the report, please visit: https://www.bja.gov/Publications/Eval-Research-BJA-Programs.pdf.