Strategies for Encouraging Progress in the Justice System

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" >Strategies for Encouraging Progress in the Justice System</span>

Years of rigorous studies and in-depth research have fueled the momentum for evidence-based practices driving transformation. The intricate web of the criminal justice system weaves through countless lives, agencies, and communities, highlighting the pressing need for a comprehensive, community-driven, evidence-backed overhaul to ensure a lasting impact.  

Justice system reform is best achieved when multiple stakeholders are directly involved. Involving key stakeholders from the beginning will garner greater results in the short—and long-term.  

Internal and external stakeholders directly involved in the criminal justice system are integral to criminal justice reform. In addition to identifying internal stakeholders in leadership roles, it is also important to involve staff from various levels within your organization to participate in criminal justice reform. Unfortunately, frontline criminal justice system employees, such as front desk personnel, administrative support staff, lab professionals, and records specialists, who have the most direct interaction with those involved in the justice system, are often left out of initial and ongoing discussions regarding justice system reform. This exclusion persists until the implementation plans are finalized, depriving these employees of the opportunity to contribute their valuable insights and experiences to the reform process.  

Internal stakeholders should include client-facing employees who frequently have direct contact with justice-involved individuals and their loved ones, as well as employees in leadership roles with the ability to influence policies and procedures. 

With internal stakeholders identified, the next step is to identify external criminal justice system professionals with whom your agency regularly interacts and invite them to be an active part of local justice system reform. Examples of external criminal justice stakeholder groups include: 

  • Courts (judges, administrators) 
  • Community supervision 
  • Victim advocates 
  • Prosecutors 
  • Defense attorneys  
  • Law enforcement 
  • Prison/jail staff 
  • Researchers 
  • Elected officials/policymakers 

Once internal and external stakeholders are identified, it is important to identify and engage community stakeholders who will be directly or indirectly impacted by justice system reform and/or who can influence its implementation and ongoing delivery.  


Involving Community Partners in Justice Reform 

Criminal justice systems routinely rely on community partners to support and/or deliver direct or indirect justice system services. Several of these community partners play a critical role in justice system reform and should be actively involved in ways to reform the justice system. Examples of community stakeholders include:  

  • Behavioral services (mental health, substance use disorder) 
  •  Employers and business leaders 
  • Local faith-based leaders 
  • Social services (health care, employment support, housing, domestic violence prevention, non-profit organizations, etc.) 
  • Education System (schools, community colleges, vocational programs, and universities) 
  • Former justice-involved individual(s) with lived experience & family members 
  • Victim(s)  
  • General public 

Less traditional community stakeholders might include public transportation, public libraries (which are great and free resources with various resources focused on higher learning and professional development), local business owners, and media (TV, newspaper, or radio).  


How to Encourage Staff Engagement in Reform Initiatives 

Put simply, reform is the action or process of changing something—such as criminal justice system practices, to improve it. These changes or modifications to a practice or organization require both internal and external buy-in. The manner in which leaders actively and sincerely solicit and incorporate feedback from all stakeholders has a direct impact on whether or not justice system reform will be put into action.  

Prior to implementation, leaders need to prepare their organization for change. Communications are essential in this phase of the criminal justice reform process. During this initial phase, leaders should strategically share information that increases their employees' awareness and understanding of the need for justice system reform. Understanding the “why” for justice system reform and how it directly benefits reduces resistance to the change, and internal buy-in is greater. It is during this phase that estimated timelines for the change, as well as necessary partners for the change, can also be provided to employees.  

Criminal justice system employees of all levels interact with external stakeholders throughout the course of their careers. When internal stakeholders understand why criminal justice reform is needed, they are more likely to encourage external stakeholders to embrace the need for reform, understand why the reform is necessary, and work together to find ways to reform the criminal justice system.  

Justice system reform requires internal and external buy-in, collaboration, and implementation. By demonstrating the organization’s collective readiness and ability to build, implement, and sustain evidence-based practices, leaders and organizations can better influence and encourage all stakeholders to implement justice system reform.  


Demonstrate Readiness for Criminal Justice System Reform  

The movement towards justice system reform has gained momentum in recent years, with increasing awareness of the need for change. To demonstrate readiness for reform, it's important to understand the issues at hand and take action to support necessary changes. 

One of the best ways to encourage stakeholders to implement criminal justice system reform is to: 

  • regularly share the value of evidence-based practices with stakeholders 
  • demonstrate to stakeholders and others that your organization is ready and able to implement criminal justice reform  

Reviewing your organization’s current readiness, resources, interactions, data, and policies will help identify the organizational development and change needed to build, implement, and sustain an evidence-based framework for justice system reform. This review also helps leaders identify organizational development initiatives that build tomorrow’s leaders, enhance teamwork, support organizational development and change management, and strengthen communications and succession planning.  

Internal and external stakeholders alike value a well-led, strategic, intentional, evidence-based approach to organizational development and change. When stakeholders observe that leaders within the criminal justice system are seeking proven and effective ways to reform the criminal justice system—by first conducting a review of their own organization’s operations and identifying actions to improve them—they will likely be more willing to embrace and implement criminal justice reform in their own organizations.  

  • Organizational development services intended to help manage organizational change specific to criminal justice system reform are available from the Carey Group. You can also access a free checklist and action plan worksheet that helps organizations identify what to do to initiate or further their progress on building and sustaining their evidence-based framework for criminal justice reform. Additionally, Carey Group offers a variety of online learning opportunities designed to meet the needs of organizations and professionals seeking to exchange their knowledge base and skills, which are available on demand.  

Once your agency is ready to move forward with the desired reform initiatives, you can then ensure that steps are in place to: 

  1. Gain staff commitment 
    1. Communicate the "why" and what is in it for them 
  2. Implement organizational development initiatives 
  3. Incorporate stakeholder support and gain feedback 
  4. Collect and share data outcomes 


Related Reading and Resources 

Harvard Business Review: Getting Employee Buy-in for Organizational Change 

Forbes: 11 Red Flags That Your Change Management Effort is Failing 


Related Resources from Carey Group 

Checklist + Action Plan Worksheet: Building and Sustaining an EBP Organization 

Empower Community Care eLearning Courses 


Connect with an eLearning Expert 

Strengthen your organization, improve your leadership skills, and enhance your ability to implement and maintain healthy, productive organizational strategies by contacting a Carey Group consultant who can connect you with effective, research-based online training, 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 criminal justice consulting to interactive workbooks that help improve the mental health and lives of people involved in the justice system.  

Carey Group’s evidence-based staff training and criminal justice consulting services address the needs of the 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. Working closely with Carey Group professionals, agencies are better able to offer a mixture of 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. Talk to a Carey Group consultant today, to get started!