(p. 1) Introduction
There are various influences on the contemporary delivery of behavioral health services to individuals involved in the criminal justice system. One involves the findings from empirical research. From drug trials to psychotherapy research, from the development of relevant psychological tests and specialized measures to the most effective approach to providing reentry services, there are many services that are guided by translational research. Yet the time and specialization to conduct and consider such translational research are often limited by the service demands on public behavioral health organizations (PBHOs) that provide assessment and intervention to justice-involved individuals. Accordingly, collaboration with university-based specialists that would promote empirically guided practice and decision-making could be sensible and practical.
There are additional justifications for university–PBHO collaboration that go beyond the more efficient use of research and other resources. Grant funding agencies, faced with their own shrinking budgets, are more inclined to fund projects that include large samples and provide interventions that can demonstrate immediate impact. PBHOs can often provide access to the individuals and contexts that enhance the value of grant-funded research, adding appeal to a partnership with applied researchers in academic settings. Universities also train the next generation of practitioners, clinical leaders, and applied researchers. There can be strong training value to supervised experience with PBHOs, particularly for trainees interested in policy as well as practice. As part of such supervised experience, trainees themselves can also provide valuable service contributions.
There can also be significant advantages to PBHOs that accrue from such partnerships. The quality of services provided by PBHOs may be enhanced through greater access to research findings available in the national literature. They may also be improved through evaluating the effectiveness of their own programming, which can be assisted by university-based collaborators. More (p. 2) generally, the diversity of perspectives available through such partnerships can enhance the quality of decision-making and problem-solving. In addition, some PBHOs may recruit more effectively to fill available staff positions when university-based trainees are part of the collaboration. The training of such individuals can also be improved when they have access to relevant experience provided by PBHOs.
This book’s major purpose is to offer detailed information about successful university–PBHO collaboration. The various chapters provide different examples of such collaborations. These examples were selected by their reputations for success. We did not have a systematic empirical basis for such selections, but there was strong anecdotal evidence that each of these collaborations is well-operated and has provided valued services.
The chapter authors offer detailed descriptions of their respective collaborations. These descriptions cover various aspects of the collaboration, including purposes, beginning, leadership, who is served, services, operations, effectiveness measurement, financial arrangements, and lessons learned. This chapter and the last chapter are provided by the editors, offering context and analysis, respectively, for those who participate in a university–PBHO collaboration—or might be interested in doing so.
Relevant Terms and Constructs
It is important to be clear about the organizations, contexts, and outcomes that will be described in this book. We offer five definitions in this section.
University: This will be defined as an advanced educational organization of any size. It may be either public or private.
Public behavioral health organization: This is a public, non-university entity that delivers behavioral health services (including assessment and intervention to individuals with problems in domains including mental health, substance abuse, and cognitive or intellectual disability). At least some of these services are provided to justice-involved individuals.
Criminal justice involvement: This refers to involvement with public safety officers, specialized (problem-solving) and traditional courts, court clinics, prosecution and defense attorneys, correctional facilities (jails and prisons), and/or parole and probation. The contact may be informal, involving questioning that does not lead to arrest. It may also be formal but include diversion from the traditional path of prosecution, conviction, and incarceration or community supervision. Finally, it may involve the traditional path, with individuals going through reentry following incarceration and release to the community.
Collaboration: This is a formal agreement with several components. There is a contract (oral or written), a designated period of collaboration, and specified services—and remuneration for such services.
(p. 3) Judgments about meaningful outcomes: There are several ways in which we will consider how meaning is assigned to outcomes. When measures are quantified, then statistical analyses of significance may be used. In combination with such statistical analyses, the collaboration may consider whether outcomes are “clinically significant”—whether they are of a nature and magnitude that reflect important differences or outcomes in that particular context. Finally, there may be judgments about meaning that are made in the absence of quantified measures, focusing more on qualitative data from key stakeholders and the recipients of services.
Review of Relevant Literature
Several aspects of the literature in this area are apparent, as we discuss in this section. While neither extensive nor well-developed, this literature does offer some attention to university–PBHO collaborations. (This is often presented in terms such as “researcher–practitioner” collaboration.) There are two empirical studies and one special issue of a journal, but the remainder of the articles represent the perspectives of a single discussant, team, or jurisdiction. There is no obvious pattern to be seen in who constitutes the “practitioner” partner in the collaboration; among those represented are the criminal justice system generally, police, departments of corrections, juvenile agencies, problem-solving courts, and departments of parole and probation.
The most substantial empirical study (Sullivan, Willie, & Fisher, 2013) involved a grant-funded investigation of researcher–practitioner collaborations in the United States and Canada, with the goal of identifying the “highlights” and “lowlights” of such collaborations. There were two components to this study. First, individual interviews and focus groups were conducted with researchers and practitioners who reported having at least one “successful” research partnership. “Practitioners” were those employed by criminal justice state administrative agencies or those who provided services to justice-involved clients. “Researchers” were not employees of the criminal justice system. Participants included 55 women and 17 men of various racial/ethnic groups, employed in urban, suburban, and rural settings in the United States and Canada, including family violence and sexual assault programs, private practice, and administrative agencies such as departments of corrections, local county courts, independent research institutes, and colleges/universities. Interviews were conducted with 49 people (38 women and 11 men). Focus group participation was facilitated for 23 participants (17 women and 6 men) in five groups, held at professional conferences. Data analysis was both qualitative and quantitative, focusing on the following aspects of the collaboration: highlights, (p. 4) lowlights, reasons it was needed, benefits, desirable aspects of collaborators and organizations, facilitation of success, challenges to success, balancing needs of researchers and participants, products and their usefulness, sustainability, and advice for both researchers and practitioners.
Second, a survey of state administrative agencies was conducted to describe each state’s infrastructure and general experiences regarding research in the criminal justice system, and document lessons learned from successful collaborations with outside researchers. Participants were those responsible for overseeing agency research or conducting it on behalf of the agency; they were employed by the agency. A total of 75 participants from 49 states completed the survey. A total of 41% were administrators or directors of the agency, 35% were supervisors or managers, and 21% were front-line or support staff.
The following were described as highlights of such collaboration:
• A strong relationship between the researcher and practitioner was key.
• The researcher was knowledgeable about the system and “walked in the shoes” of the practitioner.
• Practitioners learned the basics of conducting research.
• The project was developed and carried out in a truly collaborative manner.
• Administrators were invested and helped move the project forward.
• Findings had direct relevance to services and policies for practitioners and clients.
The more problematic aspects of collaboration (“lowlights”) were identified as well:
• Collaborations took longer than projects done by a researcher alone—and longer than practitioners imagined.
• Past negative experiences or misunderstandings about researchers and the research process contributed to a distrust of researchers by practitioners.
• High staff turnover contributed to difficulties in keeping staff invested and completing projects.
Journal Special Issue
A special issue of Criminal Justice Studies (volume 27, 2014) focused on developing and sustaining collaborative research partnerships between universities and criminal justice agencies. Noting that there had been little attention paid to this topic in scholarly journals, the special edition editors (Childs & Potter, 2014) observed that such partnerships are seen in public health, business, medicine, and the social sciences. These editors also noted that there are distinguishing aspects to criminal justice partnerships, such as data sensitivity, available funding, and the large number of agencies involved in a single project.
(p. 5) Three of the articles in this special issue focused on collaboration in the general context of the criminal justice system rather than in one specific area. In the first (Nilson, Jewell, Camman, Appell, & Wormith, 2014), the authors described their academic research center focused on community-engaged scholarship with criminal justice partners from government and nonprofit sectors. They address the topics of research relevance, outcome measurement, data collection methods, expectations, communication, and organizational change. They also incorporate the perspectives of their collaborative justice partners: these included capacity building, program improvement, and decision-making. Among the “key ingredients” for successful partnerships were continuous communication, formalization of the partnership, and clear expectations regarding expected deliverables.
The second article with a broad focus on collaboration (Rudes, Viglione, Lerch, Porter, & Taxman, 2014) identified relevant components including access, agreement, goal setting, feedback, and relationship maintenance. They illustrated the successful collaboration process by describing four partnerships between a specialized center for correctional excellence and various criminal justice agencies (including probation and parole and problem-solving courts) at the federal, state, and county levels.
Drawing on their experience in Syracuse, New York, the authors of the third article (Worden, McLean, & Bonner, 2014) offered a description of various partnerships over a 20-year period between academics and practitioners. They identified sustainability as a major challenge to using such research partnerships in a maximally effective way. Factors supporting success—and those challenging it—were identified. Like the first two articles, this one was reasonably optimistic about the prospect of developing and operating partnerships but less optimistic about sustaining any particular collaboration for a substantial time. This may reflect the reality that some partnerships are developed to address a fairly specific set of problems and are no longer needed when those problems have been addressed.
The fourth relevant article in this special issue focused on a partnership between university researchers and federal probation (Clodfelter, Alexander, Holcomb, Marcum, & Richards, 2014). It was specific not only in identifying a particular criminal justice agency, but also a designated purpose: the assessment of an ongoing training program to improve officer interactions with offenders. This may illustrate our point in the previous paragraph. When a collaboration is developed for a very specific reason, there may be a built-in shelf life—particularly if university researchers provide the practitioner partner with the tools to continue an ongoing program evaluation once the structure of this evaluation has been established.
In covering this topic (Buckeridge et al., 2002), university researchers in Canada describe a collaboration with community health officials to improve access to community health information. Project objectives included (1) the development of a geographic information system to access routinely collected health data and to consider various problems encountered during system development and (2) the analysis of challenges encountered in the process of this collaboration. They identified (p. 6) several important influences on the success of this joint effort. These included the differences between community and university cultures, time constraints, and the impact of uncertainty and ambiguity on the collaborative process.
Three articles have addressed collaboration between universities and police. In the first (Burkhardt et al., 2017), the focus was on the problem involving a substantial increase in the number of contacts between police and community members showing symptoms of mental illness. This initial question resulted in a collaborative consideration of the nature, causes, and consequences of this increase. Describing the collaboration from the perspectives of both police and university investigators, the authors drew on their experience with this and previous collaborations to discuss benefits, challenges, and recommendations for university–police research collaborations. Among the challenges identified were relationship definition, data collection and analysis, products, and relationship maintenance. They concluded, however, that the potential benefits for both researchers and law enforcement agencies are considerable.
Another article focusing on collaborations with police (Guillaume, Sidebottom, & Tilley, 2012) describes the experience of an extended collaborative relationship in Great Britain between a specialized university institute (UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science at University College London) and Warwickshire Police. This is another example of a very specific problem for collaboration: reducing bag theft from British supermarkets. It also provides another example of a collaboration being facilitated by the a priori existence of a specialized institute focusing on the particular kind of problem that is of interest to a community agency.
Finally, a third article (Rojek, Smith, & Alpert, 2012) described the findings from a national survey of law enforcement agencies on research partnership participation. This survey strongly suggests that publications in scholarly and professional journals reflect only a small portion of the ongoing collaborations between researchers and practitioners because it indicated that almost one-third of responding police agencies had participated in a research partnership within the past 5 years. Other respondents noted that they did not have funding to do so—but perhaps would have participated if such funding had been available.
Departments of Corrections
There are several relevant articles describing collaborative partnerships between university researchers and correctional agencies. Earlier work (Welsh, 2000) described several services provided by a specialized center at Temple University, in Philadelphia, and the state department of corrections. Such services included a descriptive assessment of drug and alcohol programming, an (p. 7) evaluation of drug and alcohol programs at two correctional facilities, and the development of an outcome evaluation research design. In addition to these services, an important outcome involved developing a working research relationship between the university and the department of corrections. The collaboration eventually produced a database of 118 prison-based drug and alcohol treatment programs at different correctional facilities, reflecting considerable variability in program duration and intensity but more consistency in treatment approach and criteria for treatment completion. It also yielded a successful research partnership with positive mutual feedback and a continuing relationship with an active research agenda. The evaluation of the prison-based drug treatment was eventually grant-funded, with the project described in a final report (Welsh, 2002).
Another article from the Criminal Justice Studies special issue described the partnership between Florida State University and the Florida Department of Corrections (Bales, Scaggs, Clark, Ensley, & Coltharp, 2014). It addressed the origin, development, challenges, and value (both short- and long-term) of this partnership. Its development and successful maintenance was facilitated by a grant from the National Institute of Justice, underscoring the value of extramural funding at some stage of the collaboration.
A subsequent description of another university–corrections department partnership (Drawbridge, Taheri, & Frost, 2018) suggests that both academic and practitioner partners are enriched by this kind of collaboration. Researchers benefit from developing better-informed questions, while practitioners can develop a better appreciation for how research can be applied to improving services. The benefits and challenges to partnerships and recommendations for building and sustaining researcher–practitioner partnerships were discussed, as illustrated by this particular collaboration.
A recent empirical study (Pesta, Blomberg, Ramos, & Ranson, 2019) reviewed two researcher–practitioner partnerships and conducted interviews with 20 researchers, policy-makers, and state-level decision-makers in correctional agencies in Florida. Of particular interest is their identification of common barriers and facilitators that affect the use of research in practice of criminal and juvenile justice. Frequently cited barriers included research being difficult to use, unsupportive leadership, ideology and politics, differential training, poor relationships, budget concerns, crisis-driven events, and time constraints. Facilitating influences included successful relationships, supportive leadership, informative research, budget concerns, and cross training. Participants stressed the value of trust, building relationships over time, communication, using data to collaborate, and genuinely understanding the goals and methods of their partners.
Another article (Bumbarger & Campbell, 2012) describes a decade-long collaborative relationship between the Prevention Research Center at Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. This (p. 8) partnership evolved into a multiagency initiative supporting the implementation of evidence-based prevention and intervention programs and documenting their impact through a series of studies reflecting a significant and sustained impact on youth outcomes and more efficient use of system resources. The authors describe how the collaboration developed into a broader prevention-oriented infrastructure and discuss the partnership in terms of “lessons learned.” It is noteworthy that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency is not a service delivery agency but is instead charged with providing state-level grants and contracts to agencies that do provide such services. This is a somewhat different model, with a specialized university center working closely with a funding agency, and has implications for how funding would be obtained and the products that would be expected in exchange.
Plan for the Volume
This volume includes 11 chapters. In this chapter, we provide an overview of collaborative relationships between universities and PBHOs in criminal justice-related contexts. This includes a rationale for focusing on this topic, a definition of relevant constructs to be included, and a review of the existing literature in this area.
The next nine chapters are invited contributions from individuals who have been involved in this kind of collaborative relationship. Authors were asked to address a number of questions:
• Purpose of the collaboration: Why was the relationship initiated? There may have been very specific reasons supported by careful justifications provided in writing and reviewed at multiple levels. Alternatively, the reasons may have been much less clear, the justification less extensive, and the review less multilayered. The focus may have been on specific projects or services—or more inclined toward promoting the collaboration of specific individuals.
• When and why the collaboration began: How would the collaborators describe the initiation of their mutual work in the context in which it began? There may have been a specific need for services or data. A certain kind of funding (e.g., a grant award, a budget enhancement) might have created a climate conducive to such collaboration. An urgent problem or crisis might have enhanced the need for research or service as well. Whatever the purpose and circumstances associated with the initiation of the collaboration, their description will be valuable in understanding this particular work as well as useful in identifying recurring patterns across collaborations.
• The process involved in setting it up: This question traces the evolution of the collaboration from its initiation to the time at which it is more mature. How would the details of the collaboration’s development (p. 9) be described? If it involved a transition from a prior project, what steps were taken to move from the prior project to the collaboration? Chapter authors are asked to identify key contributions to the setup stage.
• Who is involved, including leadership: One important aspect of any collaboration involves the number of individuals involved and the approximate time commitment of these individuals. In addition, it is useful to know how the collaboration is led. There is likely to be some sharing of leadership responsibilities given that two organizations are working together. How does this work?
• What services are delivered: There are numerous kinds of services that could be delivered as part of this kind of collaboration. These include training, supervision, clinical services, research services, and program evaluation. The nature of the services that are provided and whether there is some combination of services are important aspects of the collaboration that can supplement the process information obtained in the previous bullet points.
• Who is served: What is the target population for the receipt of the services provided as part of this collaboration? Those using such services will, of course, depend on what is provided. But there is an important distinction among agency personnel, university-based trainees providing services to the agency, and individuals who themselves receive agency services. Depending on the services provided, there may be multiple target populations.
• How the collaboration functions: The next important question is how the collaboration is run after it has been established. What are the details of the day-to-day operation, including leadership, communication, goal-setting, products, reviews, and evaluation of effectiveness?
• The expectations and agreements that have worked best: In any organizational collaboration there are areas of strength. This item will identify the authors’ perceptions of the aspects of the collaboration that have worked particularly smoothly or effectively.
• The expectations and agreements that have not worked well (including the biggest mistakes): In a similar vein, any collaboration will have aspects of the relationship that have not worked as well. This question will include a request to identify mistakes as well as weaknesses, which may be helpful in the eventual analysis of how a university–PBHO collaboration can avoid such mistakes.
• The significant changes since it began: In the evolution of a successful collaboration there will have been important changes. The nature of these changes and the reasons they were made will be sought in this section.
• The contractual details, including financial arrangements: It seems likely that most collaborations will have developed a formal written agreement since these collaborations, by definition, involve the delivery (p. 10) of services in exchange for compensation. The detailing of such written agreements, including a description of services and compensation, will be discussed.
• How effectiveness is measured, including monitoring, data, and outcomes: Appraising the nature of services and their outcomes can be done in at least two ways. First, were the services delivered as anticipated? Second, were the products or outcomes that may have been associated with such services tracked? The nature of this effectiveness appraisal process will be described in this section.
• Lessons learned, with implications for other collaborations: One of the most valuable aspects of a successful collaboration can involve the reflection of those involved about how they have been informed by the experience, what lessons have been learned, and what implications might be identified to help inform others considering a similar collaboration. Chapter contributors were invited to draw their own conclusions about their specific collaborations. The editors considered all collaborations in the aggregate to reach broader conclusions.
The final chapter undertakes the analysis of the information provided in the immediately preceding chapters, each of which has focused on a collaboration in a single site. The analysis considers both common ground and divergent aspects of the collaborations. In some instances, we may have the benefit of empirical data that have been collected to help appraise whether significant change (clinical or statistical) has resulted from the operation of the collaboration. This information, along with the “lessons learned” provided by chapter authors, will form the basis for conclusions about starting and successfully operating a collaboration between a university and a PBHO in a criminal justice context. Recommendations for successful development and operation, including the potential costs and benefits, will follow from these conclusions.
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