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MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge Evaluation

Facade of courthouse with columns.
Evaluation of the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge to reduce jail populations across the U.S.
  • Client
    MacArthur Foundation
  • Dates
    2021-2025

Problem

MacArthur Foundation wants to engage the public to safely reduce populations in jail and address racial and ethnic disparities.

MacArthur Foundation has implemented the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) to support the broader spread of reform and the achievement of national and local impacts. The Foundation has approached NORC to conduct four related studies to evaluate the SJC.

  • Outcome Study: Examine the extent to which SJC contributed to changes in key public safety and criminal justice system outcomes as compared to non-SJC sites.  
  • Communications Study: Assess the extent to which SJC focused broader attention on the work of sites to amplify progress and shift narratives around local criminal justice systems. This includes securing public support and buy-in among key leaders and decision-makers to ensure reforms are sustainable and encouraging non-SJC jurisdictions to pursue reform.
  • Implementation and Feedback Study: Explore the context in which SJC efforts have taken place and identify SJC's strategies and contributions to systems changes. This includes racial equity and community engagement strategies and providing feedback to improve the ongoing implementation of SJC.

The impact study will synthesize all findings to describe how SJC has impacted racial inequities and jail use, and incarceration more broadly.

Solution

NORC’s evaluation will identify SJC’s strategies, communication, implementation, and impacts.

NORC will work with SJC stakeholders to identify appropriate sites, staff, and community members to participate in the data collection process.

  • National Poll: NORC will be using its' AmeriSpeak panel to answer questions on awareness and knowledge of jails and jail populations, opinions about the use of local jails, criminal justice reforms, experience with the criminal justice system, and background information. This activity will not include SJC stakeholders as part of the data collection.
  • Media Scan and Social Data Listening Analysis: NORC will review SJC's social media communication and other media sources to understand how project-related messaging and public discourse has changed over time.
  • Local Poll and Implementation Site and Network Survey: NORC will work with SJC sites to identify criminal justice reform leaders (staff, local justice personnel, and partners) at the site level to provide their opinion on criminal justice systems, experiences, perceptions, and knowledge.
  • Key Informant Interviews: NORC will conduct interviews with representatives from implementation sites, MacArthur Foundation staff, SJC partners, and strategic allies to obtain information on key results and activities, change processes, contextual and influencing barriers, challenges, lessons learned, and feedback.
  • Document Review: NORC will work with sites to identify documents that could inform the evaluation

Result

The MacArthur SJC evaluation is still in its preliminary phase.

The final stage of the SJC initiative will challenge the implementation sites to find the resources to maintain and grow their reform efforts and to shift from a time-limited ‘project’ mindset to a more sustainable reform movement approach. The sites are tackling challenging contextual dynamics around community perceptions of public safety, negative narratives around crime trends, policing practices, and jail reduction strategies, and ongoing workforce shortages. The SJC is also supporting national and state networks, including those focused on particular criminal justice strategies and those focused on serving particular demographics, to create a critical support system for sites and an important tool for sustaining and spreading the work beyond the implementation sites. In 2023, NORC’s work on evaluating of this stage of the SJC initiative will focus on presenting action-oriented results of the AmeriSpeak fielded Local Poll, an implementation study survey and social network analysis of local system actors, a panel data analysis using Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data, and in-depth case studies focusing on the initiative’s impact and sustainability in 12 local implementation sites. The data of these activities will be triangulated to create recommendations across the strands of work.

Project Leads

Other Project Leads

Julie Kubelka
Project Manager

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