Building Local Collaboration
County Criminal Justice Advisory Boards
(CJABs) are local planning and problem solving groups. PCCD supports
CJABs in getting started and with assistance on strategies and project
The top-level county officials who serve
on CJABs take a systemic and policy-level perspective on a broad range
of criminal justice issues, on which they:
- Work collaboratively with state agencies and community groups.
- Recommend best management practices.
- Promote communication.
CJABs provide PCCD with an efficient way
to evaluate a county’s suitability for support of criminal justice
initiatives; for example, expanding technology capability. Over the
years, CJABs have become pivotal decision makers for justice-related
issues at the county and local levels. They are also frequently a
primary contact on criminal justice with the Commonwealth and the
PCCD strongly believes all county
leaders involved with justice systems, social services, and judiciaries
would benefit by participating in CJAB activities.
PCCD regional representatives for CJABs
provide training, technical assistance and strategic planning services
to county CJABs. These efforts are performed to improve the
effectiveness and efficiency of county criminal justice systems.
Benefits of a Criminal Justice Advisory Board
- Improved analysis of problems that will then result in better decisions.
- Increased communication, cooperation, and coordination among police,
courts, corrections, and private service agencies, as well as between
levels of government.
- More effective allocation of resources.
- Higher quality programs and services based on a clear understanding of needs.
- Expanded capacity and personnel skills.
- Consolidated effort to make the justice system more cost-efficient, more accountable, and more open to the public.
- Increased public confidence and involvement in the justice system.
Membership and Resources
Membership is diverse, and includes representatives of:
- Law enforcement.
- Community-based organizations.
- Executive branch of government.
- Health and human services agencies.
- Victims’ services agencies.
- Faith communities.
To ensure fact-based decisions and
planning, CJABs can access a Web-enabled information "dash-board" that
pulls together key metrics from the county justice system, including
- Law enforcement
PCCD partnered with the Pennsylvania
State Data Center at Penn State Harrisburg and secured funding from the
Bureau of Justice Statistics to implement the dashboard system.
Statistics and other information receive feeds from a number of
Commonwealth databases, including:
- Pennsylvania State Police.
- Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
- Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing.
- Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole.
- Pennsylvania Justice Network (JNET).
- PCCD's APPRISS database for tracking offenders.
- PCCD's Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification system (SAVIN).
Organizing a Board
A successful CJAB does the following:
- Involves high-ranking decision makers who think broadly.
- Builds a structure for governance, data integration, and ongoing operations.
- Focuses on policies and systems across jurisdictions.
Setting up a CJAB can be challenging and
time-consuming. Questions need to be raised about the role a CJAB might
play in the county, how it would differ from other criminal justice
boards and task forces, and what has to be in place to start a CJAB.
Specifically, when considering a CJAB, ask:
- Is a there a credible, effective individual willing to lead the CJAB development?
- Is there a pressing issue that would justify convening a CJAB?
- Are key criminal justice decision makers willing to serve on a CJAB?
- Does the county currently have the resources to support a CJAB?
With answers to those questions, a
subsequent step is to have a publicly visible and credible individual
invite key county and municipal representatives to an exploratory
meeting. That meeting should start with a simple explanation of the
function, benefit, composition, structure, and resource requirements of a
CJAB, then ask participants, which criminal justice issues should a
CJAB address, and who should be invited to future meetings?
Assessing a Board's Performance
The Board should regularly evaluate its
mission, structure, membership, team performance, and other success
factors. A survey is available for that purpose from PCCD. The survey
can be completed anonymously by each Board member, given to a neutral
person for summarizing, and presented to the Board for their action.
In sum, CJABs are responsible,
collaborative, coordinating organizations. Their effectiveness raises
public confidence in the justice system—a confidence that can soothe
public fears about crime and allay concerns that little can be done
about it. CJABs are a sign of good government.