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​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 implementation.

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 federal government.

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:

  • Courts.
  • Corrections.
  • Law enforcement.
  • Community-based organizations.
  • Executive branch of government.
  • Health and human services agencies.
  • Victims’ services agencies.
  • Business.
  • 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 indicators for: 

  • Prisons
  • Courts
  • Juveniles
  • Probation/parole
  • Law enforcement

In 2010, PCCD partnered with the Pennsylvania State Data Center at Penn State Harrisburg and secured funding from the Bureau of Justice Statistics to implement an initial dashboard system displaying statistics and other information from a number of Commonwealth databases (formerly known as the CJAB Data Dashboards).  Please visit PCCD's Criminal Justice Process and Data webpage for links to various dashboards and data provided by other related criminal justice agencies and PCCD's Policy and Research for in-house created dashboards and reports.


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.