Christine Cole, Executive Director

Much of what we do at CJI involves supporting states' efforts to improve their justice systems, including data support, policy guidance, and training people on the front lines. So, the arrival of COVID-19 is very much affecting our partners and the way we are doing our work.

We've engaged with several states and localities to assist with their responses to current challenges. Some examples of CJI's COVID-related work:

  • Understanding CARES Act opportunities for criminal justice agencies
  • Ensuring corrections agencies can continue to provide behavioral health services
  • Understanding current release policies, including release authority, eligibility, and decision-making
  • Outlining new or expanded release options in response to emergency release situations, including examples from states and localities
  • Coordinating transition planning with community support services
  • Preparing supervision policies and practices for those released under emergency release policies
  • Connecting corrections agencies to organizations that are conducting projections of how COVID-19 will impact jails and prisons
  • Collecting data on jail and prison releases, developing a data tracking program to understand outcomes of release decisions, and comparing data from multiple cohorts of released individuals to assess outcomes

We also started tracking criminal justice-related responses to the virus. CJI's new online tracker includes information from media reports, official announcements, and other sources about actions taken in response to coronavirus that affect incarcerated populations. So far, efforts range from police departments issuing summonses instead of making arrests to fast-tracking parole hearings to early releases for individuals nearing the end of their sentences or who have pre-existing medical conditions.

Our team's experience and expertise across the spectrum of criminal and juvenile justice means we can continue our work in this unprecedented moment in time. Please let us know if any of the above areas of support are of interest to you or others in your network. CJI's assistance is occurring at both state and local levels and can be adjusted based on agency or site needs.

Thank you and please be well,

P.S. See below for an inspiring story about how Davidson County's Juvenile Court in Tennessee is advancing important system changes.

  • The Curated Library about Opioid Use for Decision-Makers (CLOUD) has a new featured collection of COVID-19 resources. CJI led a webinar last month for anyone new to the system.

  • Check out CJI’s recent publications: Justice Reinvestment Phase II: Implementing Statewide Reforms, and Justice Reinvestment: Prioritizing Prison Resources Where They Matter Most.

Davidson County’s Juvenile Court (DCJC) is in the midst of an exciting transformation, as they incorporate best practices into all aspects of their court system and include staff at every level.

Following the passage of Tennessee’s Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, DCJC leaders shifted their focus to implementing evidence-based practices proven to reduce recidivism. They knew they would need certain components to succeed: collaboration (especially interagency), a shared message across the court for every interaction with young people and their families, and a plan for sustainability.

As a part of the initial effort, DCJC’s Judge Sheila Calloway and Court Administrator Kathy Sinback knew staff would benefit from hands-on tools to put knowledge into practice. With that in mind, they called upon CJI, an organization already providing juvenile justice technical assistance to Tennessee through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Juvenile Justice System Improvement initiative. They specifically requested that CJI train the entire probation unit on the Principles of Effective Intervention and Cognitive Interaction Skills. Additionally, DCJC chose eight staff, including the chief of probation, to become certified trainers. The trained staff began seamlessly weaving their new skills and knowledge into their work and DCJC now offers these trainings as part of their onboarding process and as needed.

“When we understand the importance of specifying the right treatment and the right resources for the ‘right’ children, we can be of greater service to the entire community,” said Judge Calloway. “In the past, we sometimes over-serviced youth and we unknowingly put them at a greater risk to return to the system. Now, we can maximize our impact by concentrating efforts on the young people who truly need us and by intervening in ways that help strengthen families and our communities.”

The training helped fill a gap for DCJC staff from prior trainings and discussions, especially by providing an effective way to interact with youth, families, colleagues, and providers in a meaningful way. DCJC colleagues learned skills and a framework for talking about issues with each other—ideally, they can now talk about cases more quickly and concisely—and the shared knowledge now holds everyone more accountable as they work with young people moving through the system. Everyday interactions will now decrease the risk of young people on their caseloads getting involved in crime, while also building a better sense of partnership with all staff.

Thanks to our many partners and funders who help us make this work happen. Read more about the Arnold Ventures , Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) , National Institute of Corrections, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) , and Pew Charitable Trusts.