Agenda, Scope, and Goals
The MDRC Center for Criminal Justice Research has a robust portfolio of projects focusing on pretrial reforms, jail-based services, prisoner re-entry, and programs for system-involved young people.
New York City Supervised Release program. MDRC is conducting a process and impact study of a citywide pretrial Supervised Release (SR) program that offers judges an alternative to bail for defendants awaiting trial. SR aims to ensure defendants’ appearance in court while maintaining public safety and reducing the use of pretrial detention and money bail. The evaluation will describe how SR operates and assess its effects on the rate at which defendants show up to court hearings, pretrial rearrests and detention, and case disposition and sentencing.
Pretrial reforms that include the Public Safety Assessment. MDRC is evaluating pretrial criminal justice system reforms that include the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), a risk-based decision-making tool designed by Arnold Ventures. Used in over 38 jurisdictions nationwide, the PSA seeks to provide courts and judges with objective data to inform decisions about whether a defendant can be safely released pretrial and whether he will return to court. Key questions are whether the reforms are reducing costly jail stays, whether incarceration is targeted to high-risk cases, whether defendants are showing up to court hearings, and whether they are getting arrested for other crimes.
Rikers Island Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience. MDRC oversaw the implementation of a program that provided cognitive behavioral therapy to more than 3,000 16- to 18-year-old jail inmates. The project — part of the nation’s first Social Impact Bond — focused on personal responsibility education, training, and counseling, with the goal of reducing the likelihood of reincarceration.
Rikers Island Single Stop. MDRC conducted an impact evaluation of a jail-based program designed to connect sentenced Rikers Island jail inmates with food stamp and Medicaid benefits upon release.
Los Angeles County Diversion and Reentry Project. This project is designed to address the needs of justice-involved individuals under the supervision of the Department of Probation. MDRC’s study includes the development of innovative evidence-based approaches to reentry services, technical assistance, an implementation and impact study, and a cost-benefit analysis. This project offers Los Angeles County a systematic approach to service administration and an assessment of the impacts of its reentry service models.
Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration. MDRC is leading this large-scale seven-site federal evaluation project sponsored by the Department of Labor focused on the next generation of subsidized employment programs that target former prisoners and other groups with barriers to employment.
Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Transitional Jobs Program. MDRC’s random assignment evaluation of this New York City program found that it reduced recidivism, especially among recently released prisoners, and was cost effective. MDRC later assessed the implementation of an enhanced CEO model in several upstate New York locations, San Diego, and Tulsa.
Returning Citizens Stimulus. CEO has partnered with Blue Meridian Partners and a variety of reentry-service providers to issue conditional cash transfers to citizens released from incarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic in multiple jurisdictions throughout the United States. This study will examine how the payments affect beneficiaries’ financial stability, engagement in services, economic mobility, physical and mental health, incarceration, and involvement in the criminal justice system during a global pandemic and for up to one year following the last payment.
Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration. MDRC used a random assignment design to evaluate four programs for returning citizens in Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and St. Paul that were designed to reduce recidivism and increase employment.
Reintegration of Ex-Offenders Evaluation. MDRC was a partner in a random assignment evaluation that tested 24 employment programs for former prisoners in 18 states to evaluate their impact on employment outcomes and recidivism.
Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Employment. MDRC is rigorously evaluating an innovative Cognitive Behavioral Intervention (CBI-E) of its own design, including a curriculum and staff training developed by the University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute, to support low-income criminal justice–involved fathers in finding and maintaining employment. The CBI-E intervention is being tested in three sites in the federally funded Building Bridges and Bonds demonstration project.
Changing Attitudes and Motivation in Parolees. MDRC conducted a multisite study of the implementation of an innovative parole-based intervention intended to improve offenders’ motivation and address cognitive and behavioral functioning through specially trained parole officers.
PACE Center for Girls. MDRC is conducting a 15-site random assignment evaluation of this Florida-based program that provides academic education, case management, and gender-specific life skills training to young women who are either involved or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.
Bridges to Pathways. MDRC is evaluating a Chicago-based program for previously incarcerated young men between 17 and 21 that combines academics (geared toward earning a diploma or equivalent), social-emotional learning, and workforce development with the aim of reducing recidivism and violent crime and improving workforce and education outcomes.
Youth Villages Transitional Living Program. This program provides intensive, individualized, and clinically focused case management, support, and counseling to young people making the transition out of foster care and juvenile justice systems in Tennessee. MDRC’s random assignment evaluation assessed the program’s impact on criminal justice involvement, employment, and educational attainment.
Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP). MDRC is conducting a 10-site study of this three-year nationwide program that provides education and employment services to young people ages 14-25 who are homeless, aging out of the foster care system, or otherwise involved in the child welfare, criminal justice, or juvenile justice systems.