Message from the Director
Those of you who have been following the National Institute of Corrections e-newsletter and website know that our Advisory Board recently held a public hearing in Washington, D.C., titled “Balancing Fiscal Challenges, Performance-Based Budgeting, and Public Safety.” Its focus was exploring effective measures of cost containment in corrections. It’s no surprise that the testimony was highly informative since we did our best to invite the brightest, most experienced professionals in corrections to speak before the board. In addition, guests from the Pew Center on the States, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Vera Institute, and JFA Institute provided testimony from economic and public policy perspectives. For those of you unable to attend to the hearing in person, NIC will share hearing materials on the website as they become available. A compilation of submitted written testimony is available now for downloading.
In this issue of the NIC e-newsletter, you will learn more about the hearing, its speakers, recurrent themes, and related news. However, I do want to highlight here the testimony of Dr. Christopher Innes, Chief of the Research and Information Services Division at NIC. His remarks are especially important to consider as we begin to look at corrections in the same way we do other traditional fields of study, where inquiry is satisfied not with hunches, but with rigorous scientific approaches.
Among other things, Dr. Innes discussed in his presentation an NIC cost containment survey conducted in 2011, which showed how agencies around the country have been engaging in cost containment strategies since at least 2006, several years before the economic crisis of 2008. This tells us that cost containment for the field isn’t new, but the widespread severity of the budget tightening around the country likely is. What is surprising is that 90% of the survey respondents noted that they had to look to staffing as one of the many areas in which they searched for budget reductions.
In an era where much of America’s workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next 10 years and in a field like corrections where turnover rates are high and recruitment is down, it raises questions when staffing scores so heavily as an option. Now, there could be many reasons for this. Some agencies may be overstaffed. As technology improves and processes become more efficient, staff reductions are to be expected. An example of creative staff deployment might be using staff schedules in different ways to cover mandatory posts or assignments.
What no one wants to see is agencies looking at staffing as a primary means of reducing costs. This is why the cost containment hearing is so important and necessary. It is why NIC is working to make these materials available to you and why we developed the Cost Containment Framework, which outlines the process of how to find appropriate, viable cost containment solutions suitable for your agency.
I encourage you to stay abreast of the latest cost containment news from NIC, including the release of additional hearing materials, management tools, and operations training by staying connected with NIC. Share with others in the Corrections Community, join us for satellite/internet broadcasts, peruse our online library, and share information you receive from us with your colleagues.
Morris Thigpen, Director
NIC Advisory Board Hosts Public Hearing on Cost Containment in Corrections
Recently, the National Institute of Corrections Advisory Board held its latest public hearing titled “Balancing Fiscal Challenges, Performance-Based Budgeting, and Public Safety.” Focused on providing solutions to field about viable cost-cutting alternatives, the hearing brought in experts from federal, state, and private-sector agencies and think tanks that have successfully implemented or guided others toward cost saving measures. Common themes included the connection between cost and current levels of incarcerated populations as well as agency culture and the role of the courts and community partners in providing appropriate sentencing and services to offenders.
In addition, the hearing marked the national unveiling of NIC’s Cost Containment Framework, an online resource outlining the steps of finding and implementing solutions that will help corrections agencies not only save money with no-cost and low-cost alternatives, but also improve efficiencies in spending.
For more information about the NIC Advisory Board and NIC’s recent list of hearings, please visit www.nicic.gov/publichearings. For a day-by-day summary of the hearing and a record of submitted written testimony, visit NIC online.
Annotated Bibliography Series Releases Cost Containment Collection
Cost Containment Website
The NIC Cost Containment Framework was unveiled recently at an NIC Advisory Board public hearing titled “Balancing Fiscal Challenges, Performance-Based Budgeting, and Public Safety.” The online resource was created to help departments of corrections, state agencies, and others involved in the process of managing and/or allocating corrections funding make the best and appropriate choices for their local areas. Figure 1 illustrates the twelve steps of the framework.
Figure 1: Cost Containment Framework Roadmap
As stated on the framework homepage:
The Corrections Containment Framework is not just about cutting costs. It is about stakeholder buy-in; the evaluation of risk and short- and long-term impact; and the implementation, monitoring and measuring of lean practices. The Framework is built around a pragmatic cost modeling process—a methodical approach that will increase efficiency, reduce costs, and yield positive results for a solid understanding and foundation of the cost containment process.
Key tools of the framework include lessons on cost behavior, implementation planning, cost prioritization, risk assessment, research, and developing a steering committee.
General information about cost containment can be found at www.nicic.gov/costcontainment. The complete online edition of the cost containment framework is available at www.nicic.gov/CCFrameworkInfo.
Dr. Joan Petersilia Speaks on Prison Downsizing
Joan Petersilia, Professor of Law at Stanford University, spoke about the benefits and caveats to the recent surge in prison downsizing sweeping across correctional institutions throughout America. At an annual conference of the National Institute of Justice, Petersilia gave her remarks in a talk titled “Looking Back to See the Future of Prison Downsizing in America.”
In her talk, Petersilia makes the case for using research and evidence-based practices in correctional decisionmaking. She refers to the widespread attempts corrections made at downsizing nearly 40 years ago. “We have seen prison decarceration policies,” she says, “in the hopes of, on the backs of, community-based alternatives that turned out not to work in the long run.” Use of evidence-based practices and implementation of community-based programs that have been proven to work can help prison populations stay down for the long run and help prevent repeating the short-lived gains of the past.
A full video of her remarks is available online.
Phase II Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) Learning Sites Selected
Seventeen counties and communities applied for the six slots available in Phase II of the NIC Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) Initiative. Participant jurisdictions were chosen through a competitive process from a very strong applicant pool. Phase II TJC sites will receive technical assistance in implementing the TJC model for a 2.5-year period starting immediately.
The six TJC Phase II sites include:
- Ada County, Idaho
- Franklin County, Massachusetts
- Fresno County, California
- Hennepin County, Minnesota
- Howard County, Maryland
- Jacksonville, Florida
NIC implemented a comprehensive selection process to determine the Phase II jurisdictions. First, selected jurisdictions had to demonstrate existence of an infrastructure that would allow them to adequately benefit from NIC’s assistance. Second, these sites needed to be sufficiently varied to represent the breadth and variety of transition-interested jails and communities around the country. NIC is confident that the six selected jurisdictions offer an excellent mix of size, geographic distribution, organizational structures, and existing levels of expertise.
Follow news and updates about the TJC Initiative at www.nicic.gov/jailtransition.