The last two decades have witnessed increasing commitment from local to federal levels for the development of research capacity in local, state, federal, and Tribal criminal justice agencies. Such efforts are intended to encourage strategic problem solving and the integration of evidence-based strategies into practice for more effective, efficient, and economical criminal justice operations. One of the key benefits of the integration of research into criminal justice practice is that such analytical skills and processes support the development of highly focused interventions that have been shown to be the most effective in terms of crime prevention and control.
The Office of Justice Programs and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in particular, have made a major commitment to advancing Evidence-Based Practice. BJA has accelerated the adoption and integration of research and evidence in the field by growing the number of BJA programs that require robust researcher-practitioner partnerships. BJA is promoting researcher-practitioner partnerships in order to implement data-driven approaches to reduce crime, improve community safety, reduce recidivism, and prevent unnecessary confinement. This model is evident in BJA’s “Innovations Suite” of programs: Project Safe Neighborhoods, Strategies for Policing Innovation, Innovative Prosecution Solutions, Innovations in Community-Based Crime Reduction, Innovations in Re-entry Initiative, Innovations in Supervision initiative, Swift Certain and Fair/”Hope”, Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, Police/Prosecution Partnership, Encouraging Innovation-Field-Initiated Programs
To enhance the effectiveness of these Innovations Suite programs and to bring more “science” to the field, BJA has funded the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University and it’s team from the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence at George Mason University, Association of Prosecuting Attorney’s, Center for Public Safety Initiative at Rochester Institute of Technology and Justice Research and Statistics Associations to build an academy to help researchers and practitioners work more effectively and efficiently on crime reduction strategies. The Innovations Suite Researcher-Practitioner Fellows Academy (from here on referred to as the Fellows Academy) is a multi-day experience focusing on the importance of using science and data to: (a) support criminal justice planning and programming; (b) develop capacity to translate research into practice; (c) support the implementation of evidence-based practice; and (d) enhance public safety and improve the delivery of fair and cost effective justice. The Fellows Academy builds on the School of Criminal Justice’s experience of working with data-driven initiatives as well as creation of their Violent Crime Reduction Workshop, originally developed for Project Safe Neighborhoods.
The Fellows Academy will perpetuate a “community of practice” and develop “Fellows,” by providing training in action research, linkage to proven processes and strategies, and supporting the Fellows and the partnerships through ongoing training and technical assistance. This will include a resource and communication network for continuous learning, support, and sharing of best practices. The objectives include creation of a network of researchers and organizations actively engaged in practitioner-researcher partnerships. The goal is to build capacity for identifying and responding to emerging and chronic crime problems, analysis of these problems, linking strategies to research-based practice, and developing a culture of experimentation to further develop and sustain evidence-based practice.
The first Fellows Academy was held on July 28-31, 2015 in East Lansing, MI, with a focus on research partners only. The second Fellows Academy, an expanded, four-person team of researchers and practitioners, was held on February 2-5, 2016 in Washington, DC. As of August 2018, seven Fellows Academies have been held.
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The Office of Justice Programs and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in particular, have made a major commitment to advancing Evidence-Based Practice. A key aspect of this commitment is BJA’s support for research partnerships throughout the Smart Justice Suite of grant programs. To support these research partnerships, BJA has provided an award to the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University (MSU) to develop and offer the Innovations Suite Research Practitioner Fellows Academy. The goal of the Academy is to support the effective integration of research into the Smart Justice programs and to enhance capacity for local crime prevention and reduction.
The Fellows Academy builds on MSU’s experience with Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) and similar data-driven initiatives as well as the Research Partner Orientation Course (RPOC) that was originally developed for PSN research partners. The Fellows Academy expands upon the RPOC in two important aspects. First, it will be a multi-day experience thereby expanding on the importance of inclusion of science and data, a 2015 BJA goal. Second, it expands beyond PSN to be applicable to the full Smart Justice Suite of Programs on which BJA has put much emphasis. The Fellows Academy will serve researchers acting as research partners in a variety of BJA grant programs.