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Comprehensive reentry initiatives that seek to promote system and community-level change through engagement with multiple stakeholders face several challenges. The authors examined the common goals of comprehensive reentry initiatives and identified 25 critical implementation indicators necessary for successful high-quality, multi-facted reentry initiatives.
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22 FEDERAL PROBATION Volume 81 Number 3
Key Factors to Promote Successful
Comprehensive Reentry Initiatives
Jeff Mellow
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Kevin Barnes-Ceeney
University of New Haven
the early stages of its renaissance. Reawakened
from the late 1970s through the 1990s of
“nothing works” and zero tolerance for viola-
tors, and driven by political consensus that
mass incarceration is a failed criminal justice
response, community corrections is on a path
of rediscovery and new learning. Since then,
reentry has replaced revocation as the word du
jour, backed up with a host of new innovations
in supervising and rehabilitating offenders to
reduce recidivism (e.g., validated, actuarial
risk assessment tools; cognitive treatment pro-
grams; motivational interviewing). However,
even with all of these new best practices and
evidence-based advances in community cor-
rections, there is a recognition that long-term
successful reintegration will only take place
when there is a coordinated and collaborative
effort by all stakeholders working with justice-
involved individuals in the community.
More and more, these collaborative
efforts take the form of comprehensive or
multi-faceted reentry initiatives that focus
on strategic system-level change (e.g.,
National Institute of Corrections’ Transition
from Prison to Community and Transition
from Jail to Community; New York City
Department of Probations Neighborhood
Opportunity Network initiative; Community
Oriented Correctional Health Services Model;
Department of Justice’s Serious and Violent
Offender Reentry Initiative; and San Francisco’s
Juvenile Collaborative Reentry Unit).
Decision making about reentry policies,
practices, and procedures is no longer the
sole domain of criminal justice agencies,
but now includes participation from a wide
range of stakeholders. These include pub-
lic, private, non-profit service providers,
and support networks such as families, faith
communities, and the communities where
they live. Comprehensive reentry initiatives
(CRIs) are perceived to have real value in
developing a network of community-based
organizations, public agencies, businesses, and
community residents focused on connecting
justice-involved individuals to opportunities,
resources, and services.
True, community correctional agencies
have always been charged with being the
boundary spanners: “individuals who can
facilitate communication across agencies and
professions to coordinate policies and ser-
vices” (Conly, 1999: 7). What has changed is
the movement from coordinated services to
a more comprehensive collaboration of com-
munity partners. Policy makers, theorists, and
correctional managers are harking back to
the days when the “community” in commu-
nity corrections meant more than physically
supervising in the community, but instead
enlisting “the saving graces of the community
itself ” (Simon, 1993: 33).
Nowhere is this intrinsic belief in the heal-
ing nature of community more evident than in
the community justice ideal. First articulated
in 1998 by Clear and Karp, community justice
has been variously described as a movement
(Clear & Karp, 1998), a paradigm (McCold
& Wachtel, 1998), a system (Maloney &
Holcomb, 2001), a mission (Bazemore and
Schiff, 2001) and a strategy and philosophy
(Clear, Hamilton, & Cadora, 2011). Numerous
practices have been included under the com-
munity justice mantle, including community
policing, community courts, community ben-
efit programs, and a variety of restorative and
reparative initiatives. At the core of these com-
munity justice approaches is a reorientation
from a sole focus on individual cases to the
pursuit of community-level outcomes through
greater community engagement and stronger
institutional collaboration and partnership.
In this article we describe key features of
CRIs, their goals, and critical implementa-
tion indicators identified from the literature
and experience that must be considered to
ensure the short- and long-term success of
high-quality multifaceted reentry initiatives.
The factors will provide a roadmap to policy
makers, program and initiative developers,
and practitioners when they consider the
time, resources, and engagement levels to suc-
cessfully implement a new reentry initiative.
Key Features of Comprehensive
Reentry Initiatives
When one hears the word “comprehensive” one
thinks of “all-encompassing.” Comprehensive
reentry initiatives recognize that success can
only occur when the criminal justice system,
stakeholders, and the community intercon-
nect to supervise, intervene, advocate, and
refer for all or nearly all of the needs of men
and women returning to the community
after a period of incarceration. This is the
antithesis of how reentry often occurs today,
which is characterized by fragmentation at
the state, county, city, and community level
(Burke, 2008; Cho, 2004; Rossman, 2002).
A reentry program differs greatly from a
CRI. For example, a reentry program may
help the formerly incarcerated find employ-
ment, housing, and other services, including
case management, and have a strong referral
process. What is lacking, however, is a true
partnership between community corrections
and stakeholders for the development of effec-
tive and sustainable interventions.
While reentry programs operate within
community contexts, CRIs seek dynamic
and reflexive relationships with community
institutions and individuals. Such relation-
ships may not only help formerly incarcerated
people reintegrate into local communities, but
also have the potential to transform the com-
munity milieu. Important meso-level changes
could include increases in collective efficacy
and reductions in community conflict and
tensions. Given the complexity of CRIs, care-
ful attention to critical implementation issues
is essential for success. Poor implementation
of CRIs may lead to superficial and tokenistic
community events and programming that is
unresponsive to diverse community contexts.
A lack of commitment to the implementa-
tion mechanics of Comprehensive Reentry
Initiatives may intensify community divi-
sions, engender disillusionment, and lead
to reduced community participation in the
future. Though no two CRIs are alike, we
argue that more often than not they should
adopt the following six key system- and com-
munity-changing characteristics:
Unified Vision and Goals
A clear unified vision and common goals are
fundamental system-changing characteristics.
Vision guides the organization toward where it
needs to go. However, the vision must resonate
with staff expected to implement it. It must
communicate “an image of the future that draw
others in” (Kouzes & Pozner, 2009: 21), reflect-
ing shared aspirations and ideals. The vision
promoted by CRIs, whether written down
or not, articulates a future in the near term
where change comes about because everyone
is working together for the good of clients,
ensuring that their needs are met, while public
safety is maintained. The vision makes clear
that one agency cannot do it alone, and that
facilitating mutually beneficial partnerships is
instrumental to the success of the initiative.
Certainly most, if not all, of the stakehold-
ers, including line staff, service providers,
leaders of community institutions, and com-
munity members will need to buy into the
CRI’s vision. Such buy-in includes an under-
standing of why the initiative is needed, as well
as how the vision is compatible with their own
organizational and personal values and goals.
Including key stakeholders in the early vision
development process can engender sustainable
commitment while ensuring that the direc-
tion of the CRI is community-informed rather
than merely situated in the community. Such
a shared vision embraces system-level change,
not just individual-level change.
A clear and shared vision must be under-
pinned by specific, mutually agreed-upon goals,
meaning the broad aims of the intervention
(Welsh & Harris, 2013) and the steps along the
path toward the vision. The goals identified by
CRIs, whether reducing recidivism, increasing
community collaborations and partnerships,
or enhancing public safety, set the scene for
the identification of measurable outcomes, a
key ingredient for determining the degree to
which the vision is being achieved. Given that
goals emerge from a heavily charged political
and funding-driven context, key stakeholders
must be given the opportunity to influence the
identification of CRI goals.
Inclusiveness is a central component of CRIs.
The belief is that justice-involved individuals
should participate in decisions that address
their needs. In the human services field there
is an increasing awareness of the need to
involve beneficiaries in the case manage-
ment process (Summers, 2016). Enlisting
justice-involved individuals in the design of
individualized case plans helps them to take
ownership of goals, increasing the potential
for success. Such an approach is compatible
with motivational interviewing approaches
that seek to foster autonomous motivation for
behavior change (Markland, Ryan, Tobin, &
Rollnick, 2005).
Although engaging justice-involved indi-
viduals in identifying their own supervision
goals is important, inclusivity encompasses
all stakeholders and beneficiaries, includ-
ing family, community members, community
partners, nontraditional networks and private
sector, media, and faith-based organizations.
The engagement of all stakeholders and ben-
eficiaries promotes a shared understanding
that collective action is needed to resolve com-
plex social problems. Only through working
together can we achieve our goals.
Identifying which community
organizations and community members to
invite to have a seat at the CRI planning table
is difficult but not insurmountable. Having
an open-door approach risks the team rap-
idly becoming unwieldy and unmanageable.
Making a list of governmental, non-govern-
mental, and community-based organizations
in your area can be a good starting point
(Mellow, Christensen, Warwick, & Buck
Willison, 2013). Often, private sector leaders
such as local business partners could also be
included. Conducting a stakeholder analysis,
which captures the historical context, political
affiliations, and inherent rivalries of potential
stakeholders, may be useful. The “institutional
footprints” (Roche, 1998: 173) that organiza-
tions have left on the local community should
also be considered. Including established,
well-respected non-profit agencies is impor-
tant, as these organizations are in a position
to elicit interest in the reentry initiative, foster
collaborative relationships, and drive a change
agenda. Of course, there is an argument that a
focus on established and well-respected agen-
cies panders to the existing status quo and is
antithetical to an approach which advocates
for systemic change. Established players, how-
ever, can increase the perceived legitimacy of
the CRI. It is critical, therefore, to set up mech-
anisms to facilitate external as well as internal
feedback, so that voices not represented by the
established agencies are heard.
Creating Feedback Loops
Feedback loops are another important com-
ponent of any CRI. At the heart of the notion
of feedback loops is the belief that criminal
justice staff and the community can solve
their own problems with the help of accu-
rate information. For our purpose, feedback
loops are provided to the CRI stakeholders to
identify resistance to change and opportuni-
ties for learning and to embolden the path to
success. Feedback loops can help nurture an
organizational “culture of curiosity” (Raynor
& Vanstone, 2001: 189), where employees
seek to understand what works, for whom,
and in what context. Such an iterative envi-
ronment is essential for the development of
evidence-based practices (Raynor, Ugwudike,
& Vanstone, 2014).
The goal is to initiate feedback loops
to help all the stakeholders successfully
implement the initiative and share their
experiences with implementation for the ben-
efit of all. Lewin’s (1951) classic elements of
a feedback loop are threefold: unfreeze—
change—refreeze, though we can also refer to
24 FEDER AL PROBATION Volume 81 Number 3
it as action—information—reaction (Goetz,
2012). Perhaps the best-known adoption of a
feedback loop in the criminal justice field is
the widespread use of CompStat in policing,
where crime responses are driven by com-
parative data analysis. Providing stakeholders
with information about their actions in real
time, giving them a chance to improve their
interventions, allows them to effect posi-
tive outcomes. Furthermore, feedback loops
ensure that key stakeholders are provided
with up-to-date information on the initiative’s
progress. In CRIs feedback loops should be
maintained by the constant monitoring of all
controllable activities, including critical inputs,
activities, and outputs, as well as immediate
outcomes such as changes in knowledge, atti-
tudes, and perceptions of clients, stakeholders,
and the community at large. All agency staff
must play a role in recording details of activi-
ties. A designated person or group, depending
on the size of the agency, should then collate
activity information. Suitable conduits for
activity data include middle managers and
monitoring and evaluation teams. Careful
documentation of activities, listening tours,
ongoing check-ins, client surveys, and staff
and community forums can all provide oppor-
tunities to nurture organizational feedback
loops. This feedback helps ensure that the par-
ticipants can comprehend and articulate the
benefits of the initiative and allows real-time
adjustment to implementation to ensure that
the goals of the CRI remain attainable.
Collaboration and Trust Building
There is often confusion between the terms
collaboration and coordination. Collaboration
is a “cooperative venture based on shared
power and authority…[and] it assumes power
based on knowledge or expertise as opposed
to power based on role or function” (Kraus,
1980: 12). Coordination, on the other hand,
which is more commonly seen in reentry pro-
grams, is a “sequenced plan of action agreed
to by all parties, delineating who will do what,
when and for what duration” (Mellow et al.,
2013). CRIs recognize that reintegration is a
collective responsibility which requires a col-
laborative working relationship with public,
private, non-profit service providers and the
community when supporting people reenter-
ing the community.
Understanding that community problems,
including recidivism, cannot be solved by poli-
cymakers or practitioners alone, CRI’s goal is a
participatory decision-making process where
the community is mobilized to identify and
address its needs, and targeted interventions
are driven by the needs of the community. As
Petersilia (2003) notes, collaboration with the
community enhances mechanisms of infor-
mal social control, such as the enforcing of
norms in public spaces, that are an impor-
tant predictor of disproportionate levels of
crime experienced by different neighbor-
hoods (Drakulich & Crutchfield, 2013). Each
stakeholder brings an institutional knowledge,
culture, and expertise to bear on the collective
problem faced.
CRIs often formalize collaborative
approaches through key stakeholder coun-
cils or committees. Such groups legitimize
the initiative within the community through
their involvement and support. Because all
the stakeholders need to work together for
the success of the initiative, trust is criti-
cally important. According to Cummings and
Bromiley (1996), trust has three components.
First, there must be a belief that the collabora-
tor is making good-faith efforts to behave in
accordance with any explicit or implicit com-
mitments. Second, there must be honesty in
preceding negotiations concerning the com-
mitments. Third, collaborators must avoid
taking advantage of each other even when the
opportunity arises.
Trust influences goal setting, risk tak-
ing, information exchange, decision-making,
partnerships, and collaboration. In fact, trust
permeates the entire initiative. For example,
for community supervision, trust is a criti-
cal component as employees are trusting the
client to desist from further offending and
address criminogenic risks, and the commu-
nity is trusting probation and parole officers
to effectively supervise and monitor the cli-
ent—just as the court entrusted a common
drunkard to John Augustus’s care back in
1841. Stakeholders in CRIs trust one another
to do their jobs, and recognize that all the
stakeholders are capable of solving complex
Strategically Long-term
System change takes time and does not end
when the funding runs out. CRIs have more
than a multi-year horizon: They are engaged in
a new way of doing business over the long term.
Petersilia (1990) reminds us that the crimi-
nal justice field is “littered with promising
interventions” that ultimately failed (p. 126).
Political pressure to respond swiftly to seri-
ous criminal events can lead to crime-control
knee-jerk reactions driven by “bumper-sticker
simplicity” (Benekos & Merlo, 1995: 3).
Repeated changes in agency direction and
approach engendered through chasing the
newest panacea pilot program can lead to
jaded and demotivated staff. The arrival of
new leaders determined to make their mark in
a new administrative cycle can foster a “hun-
kering down” mentality among agency staff.
The inclusive and collaborative approach nur-
tured by CRIs will help protect the initiative
from the buffeting winds of political whim,
ensuring that the change is both long-lasting
and long-reaching.
Promote Evidence-Based Practices
Clawson, Bogue, and Joplin (2005) outline
eight interdependent evidence-based prin-
ciples for effective interventions. These are
(1) Assess Actuarial Risks/Needs; (2) Enhance
Intrinsic Motivation; (3) Target Interventions
(paying attention to the risk principle, the needs
principle, the responsivity principle, and dos-
age); (4) Skill Train with Directed Practice; (5)
Increase Positive Reinforcement; (6) Engage
Ongoing Support in Natural Communities;
(7) Measure Relevant Processes/Practices; and
(8) Provide Measurement Feedback. Drawing
heavily upon the Risk-Needs-Responsivity
model of effective correctional treatment
(Andrews, Bonta, & Hoge, 1990), the authors
suggest that the move toward evidence-based
practices should follow a developmental order,
whereby certain steps should precede others.
Thus, risk should be assessed before any other
step in the evidence-based process, and moti-
vation to change should be enhanced before
providing targeted interventions.
Many CRIs are using risk assessment
instruments as part of the supervision plan-
ning process, and providing basic training to
staff to more effectively work with formerly
incarcerated peoples motivation. In our expe-
rience, criminal justice practitioners often
criticize risk assessment for being “deficit-
focused,” preferring to direct attention to the
bolstering of strengths and protective factors
in clients’ lives. Certainly, such a position is
understandable, as it may serve to “invigorate
clinicians who must otherwise toil, in a pessi-
mistic culture” (Andrews, Bonta, & Wormith,
2011: 749). However, the expanded risk-
needs-responsivity (RNR) model subsumes
elements of Ward and Brown’s (2004) “Good
Lives Model” to include an assessment of the
risks and strengths of justice-involved indi-
viduals, offering some solace to practitioners
desirous of a holistic approach to rehabilita-
tion. Regardless of whether risks alone or risks
and strengths together are assessed, it is critical
December 2017
that CRIs develop organizational capacity
to measure and analyze processes and prac-
tices to assist in developing the initiative. An
evidence-based organization is one that “uses
data to drive decisions and develop innovative
approaches to delivering services” (Ameen,
Loeffler-Cobia, Clawson, & Guevara, 2010: 5).
Using data to drive decision-making requires
that pertinent data be regularly collected and
analyzed in a rigorous and meaningful way.
Core Components of
CRI Implementation
Wandersman (2009) identifies four key com-
ponents needed when tackling any social
problem: (1) Valid Theory, (2) System/
Resource Support, (3) Successful Policy,
Programmatic, or Initiative Implementation,
and (4) Valid Evaluation Designs. For the
purpose of this discussion, let us assume
that CRIs being implemented are theoreti-
cally valid and have the institutional backing
and resources to support the initiative. Even
when this is the case, most CRIs either fail
or have only modest accomplishments. In
our experience, CRIs often lack understand-
ing of the critical indicators needed for their
effective implementation, and are beset by
weak evaluation designs. Compared to the
excitement of developing a clear vision and
eliciting the support of stakeholders, a focus
on the intricacies of implementation and
evaluation can be boring, and therefore it
is unsurprising that this issue often receives
limited attention. However, effective imple-
mentation and evaluation is critical to the
long-term success of CRIs.
Implementation is defined as a “specified
set of activities designed to put into practice
an activity or program of known dimensions”
(Fixen et al., 2005: 5). Implementation experts
posit that successful implementation requires
the convergence of multi-level organizational
conditions, specifically the interaction of
influence factors (i.e., political, economic, and
social forces) with organizational components
(e.g., staff selection, administrative systems
and support, organizational culture), and core
implementation components (e.g., training,
coaching, feedback, and performance mea-
surement) (Berman & Fox, 2010; Fixsen,
Naoom, Blase & Friedman, 2005; Vera, 2013).
These researchers would suggest that differing
levels of core and organizational components
and influencing factors will determine if a CRI
can complete all six stages of implementation
(Fixsen et al., 2005). The six stages of imple-
mentation are:
1. Exploration and Adoption: Identifying the
need for change, learning about possible
interventions that may provide solutions,
learning about what it takes to imple-
ment the innovation effectively, developing
stakeholders and champions, assessing
and creating readiness for change, and
deciding to proceed (or not). (National
Implementation Research Network
(NIRN), 2016)
2. Installation: Establishing the resources
needed to use an innovation and the
resources required to implement the inno-
vation as intended. (NIRN, 2016)
3. Initial Implementation: Practitioners and
staff are attempting to use newly learned
skills (e.g., the evidence-based program) in
the context of a provider organization that
is just learning how to change to accom-
modate and support the new ways of work.
(NIRN, 2016)
4. Full Operation: The new ways of provid-
ing services are now the standard ways of
work where practitioners and staff rou-
tinely provide high-quality services and the
implementation supports are part of the
way the provider organization carries out
its work. (NIRN, 2016)
5. Innovation: Testing innovations or
improvements once the initiative has been
fully implemented.
6. Sustainability: Employs formal and infor-
mal mechanisms to ensure the changes in
policy, procedures, and outcomes achieved
by the initiative are retained over time.
(TJC, 2013)
Clearly, successful CRI implementation
will require careful attention. A critical step
in this is to ensure that implementation tasks
are purposeful and described in enough detail
so that anyone engaged in the implementation
process can identify the specific activities and
their usefulness. Although many CRIs may
value an organic approach to the development
of the initiative, believing that such a model
may be more responsive to local contexts
and mirror the development of supportive
relationships in the real world, unchecked
organic development may lead to consider-
able vision drift. Clarity of purpose is a key
precursor to measurability, and this requires
a structured implementation process. Indeed,
we would argue that over the long term struc-
tured implementation is more responsive to
local contexts than an organic approach, as
it is more likely to avoid mission-hijacking
by the loudest voices amongst the stakehold-
ers. Implementation outcomes must also be
monitored as the initiative is rolled out, allow-
ing necessary fixes to ensure that the initiative
stays on course.
The Literature on
To better understand the key components
needed for CRI implementation, we con-
ducted an exploratory review of the following
six documents:
1. Bechtel, K A. (2011). The importance of
implementation in corrections. Corrections
Today, 73: 105-106.
2. Cissner, A. B., & Farole Jr., D. J. (2009).
Avoiding failures of implementation: Lessons
from process evaluations. Washington, DC:
Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) at
Community Resources for Justice. (2009).
Implementing evidence-based policy and
practice in community corrections, 2nd ed.
Washington, DC: National Institute of
4. Hsia, H. M., & Beyer, M. (2000, March).
System change through state challenge
activities: Activities and products. OJJDP
Juvenile Justice Bulletin.
5. Transition from Jail to Community (TJC).
(2013). Transition from Jail to Community
implementation roadmap. In Jeff Mellow,
Gary Christensen, Kevin Warwick and
Janeen Buck Willison, Transition from
Jail to Community online learning tool-
kit. Washington: National Institute of
6. Vera Institute of Justice. (2013). The poten-
tial of community corrections: To improve
communities and reduce incarceration.
New York, NY: Vera Institute of Justice.
The documents were chosen for their
criminal justice implementation focus, with
four focusing specifically on correctional
initiatives. We began the process of identi-
fying implementation indicators by listing
the implementation tasks outlined in the
documents. In all, we identified 86 imple-
mentation tasks, as shown in Table 1 on the
next three pages.
Volume 81 Number 3
Implementation Factors Author(s)
Exploration and Adoption Stage
1. Identify skilled leaders and political champions
Find political champions Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J. (2009)
Identify or create executive leadership body to oversee and guide the initiative TJC (2013)
Skilled bold leaders Vera Institute of Justice (2013)
2. Designate a change agent
Designate a project director Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J.
Formalize the initiative TJC (2013)
3. Identify the targeted population and their needs
Identify the targeted population and their needs Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Apply screening instrument to all jail entrants TJC (2013)
Apply risk/needs assessment instrument(s) to selected jail entrants TJC (2013)
4. Identify what community resources and evidence- based programs are already available
Determine what community resources are already available Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Identify evidence-based program characteristics to serve this population Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Define scope and content of jail transition interventions currently in place TJC (2013)
Available programming that meets evidence-based standards Vera Institute of Justice (2013)
5. Assess inter-, intra-agency, and community willingness for collaboration
Assessing community willingness for collaboration Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Compatibility between implementation characteristics and the culture to support new
interventions and the implementation process Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Both top-down and bottom-up commitment Hsia, H. M., & Beyer, M. (2000)
Culture Change Vera Institute of Justice (2013)
6. Identify quantifiable goals and objectives
Have a shared vision, identify program goals Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J. (2009)
Identify quantifiable objectives Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J. (2009)
Limit new projects to mission-related initiatives Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
“Big picture perspective” Hsia, H. M., & Beyer, M. (2000)
Installation Stage
1. Hire, train, and facilitate buy-in from staff
Hiring and training of staff Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Think about how to facilitate buy-in from line staff Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J. (2009)
Focus on employee development, including awareness of research, skill development, and
management of individual and organizational change processes, within the context of a
complete training or human resource development program Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
Training for staff Vera Institute of Justice (2013)
2. Establish and/or reform policies and procedures
Establishing policy and procedures Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Formalize the program model Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J. (2009)
Reformation of policies and procedures Hsia, H. M., & Beyer, M. (2000)
Foster system culture that supports the change TJC implementation requires TJC (2013)
Create structure to plan and implement the jail transition strategy TJC (2013)
3. Address initial and ongoing commitment of resources
Addressing initial and ongoing funding resources Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Commitment of resources, particularly financial when at all possible Hsia, H. M., & Beyer, M. (2000)
CRI implementation stages, themes, and tasks identified in the documents
December 2017
4. Develop a communication framework, data sharing and referral process
Community preparation and referral process Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Providing a communication framework Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Develop information and data-sharing mechanisms TJC (2013)
Formalize initiative partnerships and processes TJC (2013)
Engage in public education and outreach around the jail transition effort TJC (2013)
5. Collect data that focus on process and outcome measures
Establishment of data collection efforts that focus on process and outcome measures Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Plan to collect data Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J.
Focus on data Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
Create initiative case flow model including all partners TJC (2013)
Create baseline data snapshot of the pre-initiative state of jail transition, to inform planning
and against which to measure initiative progress TJC (2013)
Identify process measures and data sources TJC (2013)
Identify outcome measures and data sources TJC (2013)
6. Collaborate with stakeholders and the community
Be strategic about when and how to engage stakeholders in the planning process Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J. (2009)
All relevant stakeholders must have a voice at the table Crime and Justice Institute
Interagency collaboration to coordinate planning and implement changes to impact systemic
problems between various agencies; Hsia, H. M., & Beyer, M. (2000)
Solidify joint ownership of effort by broad stakeholder community TJC (2013)
Collaboration with key stakeholders Vera Institute of Justice (2013)
Initial Implementation Stage
1. Develop a structured format to increase implementation fidelity
Address change and focus on fidelity to minimize programmatic drift Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Increase staff understanding and support Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Promote adherence to the model Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Develop a structured format for implementing the program model Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
The need for structure for collaboration Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
Identify and address data gaps TJC (2013)
Complete Triage Matrix TJC (2013)
2. Collect and examine data to evaluate implementation
Identify process measures and examine data to evaluate implementation Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Assess program of implementation processes using quantifiable data Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
Routinely measure employee practices (attitude, knowledge, and skills) that are considered
related to outcomes Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
Regular data collection and ongoing meaningful use of such information Hsia, H. M., & Beyer, M. (2000)
Utilize data for the identification and analysis of jail transition problems and issues TJC (2013)
3. Have realistic expectations
Be realistic Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J. (2009)
Beware the temptation to overestimate caseload volume Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J. (2009)
Adapt the program in response to early implementation experience Cissner, A.B., & Farole, D.J. (2009)
Realistic Expectations Vera Institute of Justice (2013)
TABLE 1 (cont.)
CRI implementation stages, themes, and tasks identified in the documents
Implementation Factors Author(s)
Installation Stage
continued next page
Volume 81 Number 3
Full Operation Stage
1. All areas of the program model are in place Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
2. Fully trained staff Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
3. Caseload sizes being met Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
4. All groups and activities being conducted
All groups and activities being conducted Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Deliver in-jail interventions to selected inmates TJC (2013)
Provide resource packets to all jail inmates upon release TJC (2013)
Deliver community interventions to selected releases TJC (2013)
Provide case management to selected jail entrants TJC (2013)
Provide mentors to selected jail entrants TJC (2013)
5. Demonstration of a community referral process and collaboration with external partners
Demonstration of a community referral process and collaboration with external partners Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Produce transition case plans for selected jail entrants TJC (2013)
Utilize high levels of data-driven advocacy and brokerage to enable appropriate community
justice/correctional services Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
6. Well-developed and practiced supervision
Well-developed and practiced supervision Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Acknowledge and accommodate professional overrides with adequate accountability Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
7. Internal quality assurance mechanisms including data reporting practices
Provide employee timely, relevant, and accurate feedback regarding performance related to
outcomes Crime and Justice Institute
Internal quality assurance mechanisms including data reporting practices Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Innovation Stage
1. Adaptable
Identifying if there are similar program models or targeted populations served with a differing
modality, dosage, content, or structure that has been shown to have an effective impact Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
Be adaptive to changes in the environment, in the collaboration itself, and in the problem
domain Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
Sustainability Stage
1. The program is introduced to both internal and external factors that could potentially elicit
change or drift from the model Bechtel, K.A. (2011)
2. Create sustainability plans
The collaboration identifies any of its vulnerabilities and/or adapts to them Crime and Justice Institute (2009)
Develop plan for ongoing self-evaluation of the initiative TJC (2013)
Create sustainability plan TJC (2013)
TABLE 1 (cont.)
CRI implementation stages, themes, and tasks identified in the documents
Implementation Factors Author(s)
December 2017
Next, the 86 tasks were grouped together
into 25 encompassing themes. For exam-
ple, four documents discussed the task of
interagency and stakeholder collaboration
(Cissner & Farole, 2009; Hsia & Beyer, 2000;
Transition from Jail to Community, 2013; and
Vera Institute of Social Justice, 2013), which
developed into the encompassing theme:
“Collaborate with stakeholders and the com-
munity.” It should be noted that the language
used to describe similar tasks varied from
document to document, making it difficult at
times to find appropriate thematic language
inclusive enough to encompass all the task
meanings. In addition, as noted in Appendix
A, some of the implementation tasks were
only identified in one document. When this
occurred, the task was also used as the encom-
passing theme. The 25 themes were then
classified under one of Fixsen et al.s (2005)
six implementation stages. The documents we
reviewed identified more themes in the stages
of Exploration/Adoption, Installation, Initial
Implementation, and Full Operation than in
the stages of Innovation and Sustainability
(See Tables 2 and 3). Although our intent was
not to use frequency counts of tasks or themes
to make inferences about their importance,
this does suggest that these authors have given
less thought to how to sustain an initiative
over time.
Fixsen’s six implementation stages by implementation tasks identified in the documents
& Adoption Installation
mentation Full
Operation Innovation Sustain-
ability Total
(2011) 5 6 5 7 1 1 25
& Farole
(2009) 4 4 3 0 0 0 11
(2009) 1 3 3 3 1 1 12
Hsia &
(2000) 2 3 1 0 0 0 6
(2013) 5 10 3 6 0 2 26
(2013) 3 2 1 0 0 0 6
Totals 20 28 16 16 2 4 86
Fixsen’s six implementation stages by implementation
tasks and themes identified in the documents
& Adoption Installation
mentation Full
Operation Innovation Sustain-
ability Total
Tasks 20 28 16 16 2 4 86
Themes 6 6 3 7 1 2 25
This document review indicates the mul-
tiple tasks that must be implemented in any
initiative. Our own experience indicates
that CRIs do best successfully implementing
key Exploration and Adoption factors. For
example, developing the position of Director
of a CRI, identifying a shared vision, and
having a bold leader are precursors to any
CRI. Initiative Installation, the second
implementation stage, is also implemented
with some success. Considerable efforts are
often taken to strengthen organizational
and employee capacities to ensure that the
CRI becomes embedded in daily practices.
Strategies adopted often include involv-
ing stakeholders in informational sessions,
developing a criminal justice committee, and
forming Improvement Teams. Training is
often provided in principles of restorative jus-
tice, evidence-based work, and motivational
interviewing. Additionally, collaboration with
stakeholders often begins with the develop-
ment of stakeholder groups and establishing a
strategic plan to guide the initiative.
Initial Implementation, the third stage, is
often more difficult. The challenges include
stakeholders working collaboratively, the
development of a structured format to increase
implementation fidelity, and collecting and
examining data to evaluate implementation.
In particular, data systems are often poorly
designed and not integrated across justice and
human service systems. The lack of struc-
ture often associated with CRIs is related to
two contrasting schools of thought on how
an initiative should grow and be harnessed:
organic or structured (i.e., planned) change.
Some practitioners believe that a more organic
approach will increase buy-in of CRIs and
promote new and innovative ideas coming
from the stakeholders and the local communi-
ties. We advocate a more structured approach
that includes developing a structured format
for implementation and collecting data to
evaluate CRI success. Though it seems sim-
plistic, a consensus is needed on a number
of issues, including, but not limited to, the
number of stakeholder meetings that should
be held per year, how recommendations will
be implemented, how to identify which par-
ticipants will complete various tasks, and
developing key performance measurements.
Often implementation issues are subsumed
under the catch-all term “process evalua-
tion.” The purpose of process evaluation, as
Kralstein (2011) reminds us, is “to document
and explain the goals, key program elements
and operations of a project” (1). Such atten-
tion to process fidelity can help us determine
whether a program was implemented as it was
intended (Stufflebeam, 1971) and can assist us
when we seek to interpret impact assessments
(Maxfield & Babbie, 2016). Although process
evaluations and impact assessments should
be conducted simultaneously (Maxfield &
Babbie, 2016), often process evaluations are
conducted in isolation from impact assess-
ments and with limited attention to the actual
mechanics of program implementation or
research rigor. Often an organization may
contract with external researchers to conduct
a “process evaluation” because it is considered
too soon after initial program rollout to con-
sider impact and outcomes, but necessary to
demonstrate that a research and evaluation
component is valued, if not required, by exter-
nal funders. Although external evaluators can
be helpful in providing a broader “critical eye
on initiative development, process evaluation
can and should be conducted by organizational
staff, and should become part of everyday
30 FEDERAL PROBATION Volume 81 Number 3
working practice. This way the process evalu-
ation can drive program implementation,
rather than becoming an unsatisfactory proxy
for an outcome evaluation.
All too often, external process evalua-
tions are completed through research that
involves interviews with key stakeholders,
focus groups with selected beneficiaries,
observations of flagship activities, and a
cursory review of agency materials. Although
interviews, focus groups, observations, and
material reviews can elicit useful information
about the general direction and culture of the
organizations considered, such work misses
the opportunity to truly examine and learn
from, at times, dirty implementation mechan-
ics. For CRIs, which have multiple moving
parts, the need for a rigorous and methodical
evaluation of process is critical.
A rigorous process evaluation involves
analysis of all stages of implementation. It
includes documentation of inputs, activi-
ties, and outputs. Were resources available to
deliver the intended activities? What activities
were delivered to whom and in what dosage?
Which stakeholders were represented, and
what community agencies were visited? How
many training sessions were delivered and
what was learned? What steps have been taken
to ensure retention of the training received?
Certainly, interviews and focus groups can
help us understand process, but they are
particular approaches to uncovering informa-
tion, and they are certainly not the process
evaluation itself. Careful consideration should
be given to who is interviewed and observed.
Evaluators may wish to seek “maximum varia-
tion” in sampling to ensure heterogeneity of
experiences, while allowing the uncovering
of shared patterns that cut across all cases
(Patton, 2002). Maintaining a sampling table
where the differing work roles, hierarchical
position, gender, length of service, and level
of support for the initiative of participants are
documented can help avoid sampling “drift”
(Arcury & Quandt, 1999: 132).When analyz-
ing the interview data, it is essential for all
coders to adopt a rigorous coding strategy to
ensure that identified themes emerge from the
data rather than being imposed by the evalu-
ator. Cherry-picked evidence of success does
little to foster a culture of iterative implemen-
tation improvement.
Finally, due to funding and evaluation
processes, more often than not the last
three implementation stages (Full opera-
tion, Innovation, and Sustainability) are not
adequately addressed. A fully operational
initiative normally takes a minimum of two to
four years. By that time, all areas of the initia-
tive are in place, the staff is fully trained, all
groups and activities are being conducted, the
CRI has implemented benchmarking across
agencies and stakeholders, performance
measurements are used, and internal quality
assurance mechanisms are in place, includ-
ing data reporting practices. A major concern
from this point is sustainability. Both internal
and external factors can potentially elicit
change or fidelity drift. For example, often key
champions of the initiative leave the agency
or organization for another job or are pro-
moted internally and are no longer are actively
involved in the initiative.
CRIs are brave endeavors. There is a need for
criminal justice agencies working with formerly
incarcerated individuals to move away from
a silo culture and engage in meaningful ways
with the local communities where the majority
of the reentry populations lives. CRIs across the
country have made considerable inroads into
building service provider capacities, increasing
opportunities for the reentry population, and
securing a place at the table with key commu-
nity leaders and organizations. As CRIs become
more prevalent, there is a need to focus on the
institutionalization of these initiatives. Such
careful and detailed work includes developing
information and data-sharing mechanisms,
formalizing partnerships and processes, and
collecting clear, standardized data on key pro-
cess and outcome measures.
Standardization of procedures does not
necessarily mean that innovative, localized
responses to community needs cannot flour-
ish. Standardization can ensure that the
innovative responses are appropriately cap-
tured and assessed, ensuring that lessons are
both learned and acted upon. Such a reflexive
learning approach can lead to CRIs with
stronger, sustainable, and meaningful impacts.
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