Why Justice Systems Should Train on Evidence-Based Practices

Posted by The Carey Group on
<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >Why Justice Systems Should Train on Evidence-Based Practices</span>

As justice system professionals, observing trending behavior by people with justice involvement isn't uncommon. While many behaviors may seem familiar to justice professionals, responding as we have previously may not always garner the best outcome. When staff are up-to-date and trained on evidence-based practices, they are better able to respond to law violations effectively and productively. They can also better predict and prevent potential relapses.  

What are Evidence-based Practices? 

Evidence-based practices, often referred to as “EBPs,” are interventions that, through scientific research, have been shown to produce positive outcomes. Evidence-based practices are becoming increasingly common. Many times, evidence-based practices are required for funding in justice systems and behavioral health settings because they are proven to:  

  • Influence behavior change 
  • Help people make lasting positive changes 

According to the National Institute of Corrections there are eight core principles of evidence-based practices that, when combined, are scientifically proven to result in a more significant reduction of recidivism.  

  1. Use actuarial assessments 

  2. Enhance motivation to change 

  3. Use targeted intervention 

  4. Skill train with directed practice 

  5. Increase positive reinforcements 

  6. Engage ongoing family and community support 

  7. Ensure fidelity to processes and practices 

  8. Use data as a guide 

Additional information about these principles is available online to download: 8 Core Principles of Evidence-Based Practices. 

Community Impact 

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 3,890,400 adults in the United States were under community supervision, including parole or probation, by the end of 2020, which amounts to one in 66 adults. The COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted the 2020 exit and entry numbers due to many justice systems' increased emphasis on community supervision to curb the spread of the virus among individuals under the care and custody of justice professionals. However, in 2021, the numbers declined another four percent, resulting in the lowest community supervision rate in years.  

Pew suggests that the reduction in the number of individuals under community supervision is due to evidence-based policy reform that promotes best practices for better outcomes. Many individuals under community supervision face various responsivity and criminogenic challenges, such as mental health and substance use disorders, unstable housing, and employment.  

Research has demonstrated the practicality and importance of categorizing individuals based on their risk of recidivism and treatment needs and prioritizing supervision and intervention resources for those most likely to benefit.  

When staff can intervene using evidence-based practices responsive to the unique need(s) of individuals on probation or parole, outcomes for the individual, community, and the agency improve. Therefore, it is critical to provide the necessary resources and evidence-based staff training to justice systems. Providing ongoing evidence-based professional development opportunities, virtual or in person, greatly enhances the skills and abilities of justice professionals. By incorporating what they have learned into interacting with individuals with justice involvement, justice professionals can enhance public safety. 

The same benefits are true for justice professionals working within correctional facilities as well. Evidence-based practices utilized within correctional facilities: 

  • Improve overall behavior of justice-involved individuals 
  • Enhance safety for justice-involved individuals and justice professionals 
  • Increase the likelihood that—when on probation or parole or once one’s sentence is terminated—individuals will experience improved outcomes
  • Reduce the chance of future involvement with the justice system  

Focus on the Journey 

Training on and implementing evidence-based practices enables justice professionals to improve outcomes while maximizing their investment of resources. Decades of experience demonstrate that aligning justice and behavioral health systems around evidence-based policies and practices offers the greatest promise of success.

The best practice is to utilize evidence-based strategies throughout a person’s involvement with the justice system. All steps within the justice system and how they are experienced by someone directly impacts how they will interact with justice professionals and, subsequently, behave in the community. 

All justice agencies should consider creating a client journey map, starting at the initial point of interaction, when considering which evidence-based practices might be best for their agency. The primary premise behind a client journey map is to predict behavior and their needs, respond accordingly, and, ultimately, create an experience that will drive individuals to return to and/or remain in the community and continually display positive behaviors. From that first interaction to booking to pre-sentencing to direct justice involvement, deploying evidence-based practices at all contact points -  a positive client journey - directly impacts outcomes. 

Identifying and Training on Evidence-Based Practices 

Before training, it is important to verify that the training and practices are truly evidence-based—informed by tried and tested research. When assessing evidence-based practices and training, consider the following:  

  • Are these practices used by, referenced, or recommended by federal agencies/registries?  
  • Do other trusted sources recommend or cite these practices?  
  • Are there positive reports/reviews about these practices in peer-reviewed journals or featured on trusted/known justice system sites?  
  • Have other people/agencies using these practices shared positive testimonials or experiences?  

Speaking with other justice professionals about evidence-based practice tools and training is a great way to learn how the resource or training might benefit your agency and community.  

The next step is training once you’ve identified evidence-based resources that meet your agency and community needs. One of the main reasons people and programs fail in the workplace is that proper training, on even the simplest of tasks, is not provided at all or enough. When providing training, the following factors will contribute to the long-term effectiveness:  

  • Leadership participation and buy-in 
  • Incorporating staff coaching 
  • Identifying and sharing outcomes and indicators 
  • Clear direction on and explanation of the “why” 
  • Sharing “what’s in it for me?” 
  • Updating training practices and technologies 
  • Demonstrating how new practices will reduce workload stress 
  • Providing relevant training examples and content 
  • Offering real-time opportunities to implement the training soon after it is provided 
  • Implementing booster training into staff development 
  • Sharing follow-up reports and tips on training/evidence-based practice outcomes 
  • Tying implementation and delivery to employee performance plans and evaluations 

Implementing Evidence-based Practices   

Collaborating with evidence-based training and consulting professionals is one of the best ways to successfully implement evidence-based practices, including the training of these practices. Carey Group is a national consulting and publishing firm that equips justice system and behavioral health professionals with knowledge, skills, and tools that improve clients' lives. Providing an array of evidence-based staff training, organizational consulting services, and evidence-informed intervention tools, Carey Group professionals are the perfect partner for effectively addressing the needs of justice system and behavioral health professionals. 


Related Reading 

National Institute of Corrections: Evidence-based Practices (EBP) 

Pew: Five Evidence-Based Policies Can Improve Community Supervision 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center 

Bureau of Justice Statistics: Probation and Parole in the United States, 2020 

Bureau of Justice Statistics: Probation and Parole in the United States, 2021


Related Resources from Carey Group 

8 Principles of Evidence-based Care 


Strengthen your organization and improve your leadership skills and ability to implement and maintain healthy, productive organizational strategies: contact a Carey Group consultant who can connect you with effective, research-based policies, practices, and leadership tools. 

Decades of experience demonstrate that aligning justice systems around evidence-based policies and practices offers the greatest promise of success. Carey Group offers services and products for justice system professionals, from evidence-based consulting to interactive workbooks that help improve the mental health and lives of people involved in the justice system.  

Carey Group’s evidence-based training and consulting services address the needs of justice system and behavioral health professionals. Training is an essential tool for keeping staff, supervisors, leadership, and stakeholders up to date with emerging knowledge and expectations for improved outcomes. Carey Group offers in-person, online, and self-directed courses on evidence-based practices, motivational interviewing, core professional competencies, case planning and management, continuous quality improvement, coaching, and the use of behavior-change tools and supervisor resources.