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Two Valley Counties Lead The Way On Realignment

Oct 12, 2015

Two Central Valley Counties are among the first in the state to take an aggressive evidence based approach to California’s prison re-alignment. This is the first time the so-called Results First initiative has been used in California.

Kern and Fresno Counties are two of the four California counties to apply the Results First Initiative in their jails.

The program is the combined work of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation. It has been used on the state level in other parts of the country but this is the first time it has been introduced in California.

The idea, says Gary VanLandingham with Pew, is to measure what programs work as jails handle a huge influx of inmates from the state.

“Get a better handle on what programs they were operating. What level evidence was out there about the effectiveness of those programs. And helped them implement a cost-benefit analysis approach to identify better ways of spending tax payer dollars to achieve better outcomes,” VanLandingham said.

Statewide, roughly 60,000 inmates were transferred from state to county custody. That greatly increased the pressure on jails to be smart with their money.

The Kern County probation Chief TR Merickel says applying results first was a big shift in how they thought about incarceration.

“It changes the way that we look at our limited resources with realignment. So it made everybody stop and say ‘if we are going to put our money here we have to put it somewhere that works’,” Merickel said.

Merickel said that led to them shuttering less effective programs such as an art program at one jail.

“There was actually an evidence based program called Aggression Replacement Training. The acronym is ART. So they got rid of their art program and replaced it with ART,” Merickel said.

Merickel acknowledges it can be difficult to determine what criteria should be used to determine what gets ‘results’. But, he does say that since this has been used nationwide it gives California counties to look at what works in other states. In other words, letting other agencies do the expensive work of monitoring and tracking policies.

Kern is also using Results First in their contracting process, specified staff to follow and monitor its implementation, and also used Results First ideas on the design of their new jail set to open in 2017.